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Consistency: The Elusive Goal for Players on the Futures Tour
Players on the Futures Tour have all proven in their young careers that they are extremely talented golfers. On any given day, virtually all of them can go out and shoot a brilliant sub-par round in tournament play. The problem is that most of them can go out the very next day and shoot a 77, a 78, or worse. Shooting in the high 70s will not make you much money as a professional golfer. It certainly won't propel players from the Futures Tour to the LPGA, and making the LPGA is why these young women are out there competing week after week.
Finding the consistency of play that will keep their highest daily scores within a stroke or two of par is the most difficult challenge for all the Futures Tour players. It has been shown statistically over the years that players have to maintain a scoring average of 72 or better during their six-month season to have any chance of earning an LPGA card for the following year. The tour even keeps track of a fictitious player, which the tour cleverly dubs "Eve N. Par," to show how a player would finish each week if she shot even-par in every round of the event. With her steady par golf over 17 events, "Eve" would have finished in the top five on the money list last year and would be on the LPGA this season . . . if she actually existed.
As the old saying goes, "The cream always rises to the top." Nowhere is that truer than in professional golf. In 2008, four of the top five money winners on the Futures Tour had scoring averages below 72. Only one of the top five, M.J. Hur, averaged higher with 72.157. Hur and the other four are now playing fulltime on the LPGA. They earned their LPGA memberships by consistently shooting par or better.
Why a player can shoot a 67 one day and then go out on the very same course the next day and shoot a 77 is one of the many mysteries of golf. It is one of the things that keep professionals on driving ranges and putting greens for hours on end, trying to eliminate the little flaws in their swings or putting strokes that can turn birdies into bogeys.
Lisa Ferrero, a fifth-year player on the Futures Tour, is a case in point. Ferrero is like many others on the tour who are trying to solve that mystery of consistent play this season. The 26-year-old from Lodi, Calif., is a powerful ball-striker who played her college golf at the University of Texas. In her first four seasons on the Futures Tour, her scoring average ranged between 74.4 and 72.6, with last season her best when she made the cut in every one of the 17 events entered. She had seven top-10 finishes, and finished the season 13th on the money list. A handful of rounds in the high 70s kept her from finishing in the top five in 2008 and earning a spot on the LPGA Tour.
So far, in the two events of the current 2009 season, Ferrero has finished tied for eighth and tied for 21st. In the season's second event, a 77 in the final round dropped her out of sixth. Had she shot even-par she would have finished in fifth and would currently be well inside the top 10 on the money list instead of 17th where she stands now.
There are 15 more events to go on the Futures Tour. Ferrero hopes that the 77 she shot in the final round of the last event will be her highest score of the year. She knows she can shoot the 69s, the 68s and even better some days. She also knows she will have to eliminate the 77s, the 78s or worse to make it to the LPGA. Like many of the other players, Ferrero has the talent to compete with the best on the LPGA, but before she does that needs to find consistency.
On a personal note, I have known Ferrero since her rookie season in 2005 when she played in the tour's first-ever event at my home course in New Hampshire. I happened to be a volunteer cart driver for the group in which she was playing on the first day of the tournament. On the fourth hole of that round, I accidentally started up a noisy gas-powered cart in the middle of her back swing on a wedge shot to the green. Lisa chunked her shot into a front-side trap and went on to get a double-bogey. When the round was over, I apologized to her for my mistake. She couldn't have been more gracious, telling me that if she couldn't play through a distraction like that then she shouldn't be a professional golfer. Ever since then Lisa has been one of my favorite players.
Ferrero is a class act as well as a fantastic player, and I hope she makes it into the top five on the money list by season's end. It would be wonderful if 2009 is her last year on the Futures Tour and 2010 is the beginning of a long and successful career on the LPGA.
Dave Andrews is a Harvard-educated former television news reporter. He's also an avid golfer who has become a fan of the Duramed Futures Tour. His home course in Concord, N.H., is annually the site of one of the tour's events. The inspiration for Dave's 2007 novel, "Pops and Sunshine," came from meeting many of the young aspiring women golfers on that tour. Each of them has a passion, dedication and determination that he finds remarkable. His novel is a fictionalization of the dream that these young women share. To order Dave's book, visit http://popsandsunshine.com.
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