There’s a tournament within a tournament at this week’s season-ending Symetra Tour Championship that could ultimately mean more than the LPGA card itself.
The top five on the Symetra Tour money list at the conclusion of this week’s event earn LPGA status for 2021. It’s worth noting, however, that this group’s status will be significantly lower on the priority list than previous years, dropping from Category 9 to 19. (Category 19 is typically reserved for the Class A/Veteran International players who have been active on the tour for at least 10 consecutive years. Category 19 sits below Nos. 125-150 on the money list.)
It’s basically like an LPGA card lite.
The other carrot dangling on the horizon?
A start in the 75th U.S. Women’s Open next month. The top five on the money list also earn a spot at Champions Golf Club Dec. 10-13 in Houston. And on a tour where only 38 players have crossed the $10,000 mark in earnings – for the year – the USWO’s $5,500,000 purse is a mega-opportunity.
“Today was big for me,” said rookie Sierra Brooks of a 3-under 69 that vaulted her into a tie for third. “I knew coming into this week that there was maybe an outside chance of me winning to sneak into the top five there.
“I needed a day like today to have a good run at it for the last two days.”
This week’s Symetra Tour Championship at River Run Country Club in Davidson, North Carolina, offers a first-place check of $26,250. At the start of the tournament, 34 players had a chance to finish in the top five. Money leader Fatima Fernandez Cano hopes to hang on to one of those spots from her hotel room in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she’s currently quarantined after testing positive for COVID-19 for a second time this season
Ana Belac, Kim Kaufman, Bailey Tardy and Peiyun Chien round out the top five, with Chien checking in at $36,570. (Kaufman’s LPGA status is already better than what’s on offer from the Symetra Tour. But that USWO start would be big.)
Charlotte native Laura Wearn sits tied with Sweden’s Frida Kinhult at the midway point at 5-under 139. Wearn came into the week 10th on the money list and must finish solo seventh or better to have a chance. She’s sleeping in her own bed this week, 45 minutes from the course, and trying her best not to think about what’s at stake.
“I’ve just done a good job of staying in the moment,” she said of her second-round 67.
A strong finish at Champions Golf Club could go a long way toward eliminating the financial strain of a Symetra season that included only 10 starts. The original purse for the Symetra Tour finale was slated to be $250,000 but has since dropped to $175,000. A tour official said purses this year were fluid up until the start of the event, “as economics allowed.”
“At the end of the day, what the purse is is completely out of my control,” said Wearn. “If it’s $175,000 and that means we get another tournament in, that’s fantastic.”
It’s worth noting too that the purse for the LPGA’s season-ending CME Group Tour Championship will also be down from last year’s $5 million payout to $3 million.
No tour was spared.
Kinhult has competed in one ANA Inspiration and two Women’s British Opens but hopes to make her first start in the U.S. Women’s Open next month alongside several of her former Swedish national teammates.
“I know the only thing I can do to try to make that happen is to get the win,” she said.
There’s actually a third carrot on the line for Kinhult: If she wins an event, her family promised she’d get a TrackMan.
To get that done, Kinhult will need to keep working on an area that 2020 has forced her to address.
“I like to have control over everything,” she said, “which has really been tested this year.”