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Heartache for Stephanie Meadow as she misses out in Florida

By Peter Hutcheon

Stephanie Meadow was inconsolable last night after an unbelievable 75-foot chip in by her opponent cost the Ulster woman her full playing rights on the LPGA Tour in America next season. The Jordanstown golfer was left in tears after losing out to Karlin Beck's incredible stroke of good fortune at the 11th play-off hole in Florida, having missed out on the chance to win her card outright by just one stroke on Sunday evening.

"I really didn't play bad," she said, choking back the tears after failing to match Beck's chip.

"I had the opportunities inside 10 or 15 or 20 feet, but I just didn't make anything."

Although Meadow has missed out on her full playing rights for next season, her finish at the Qualifying School in Florida does mean that she is a member of the tour and will be eligible to play in a handful of tournaments.

Together with sponsors' invitations, she will have further opportunities to move her career forward, albeit not as quickly as she would had she won through yesterday.

The LPGA Tour might not have anything like the riches of the men's equivalent, but there are still millions on offer.

American Stacey Lewis topped the money list on tour last season, taking home a cool $2.5m in the process.

But it's not just the big money that Meadow will miss out on.

Playing all the regular season LPGA events would have given her the platform to push up the world rankings and consolidate her position in the women's game.

"I mean it sucks, but I still have some status," she said as she bravely tried to look on the bright side.

"It's good to know I am a LPGA member, but it's not what I wanted.

"I'm still proud to be an LPGA member, that's great. Maybe opportunities will come from that and I can play my way on from there."

It really was the most heartbreaking way imaginable for Meadow's week - her first attempt at Qualifying School since turning professional earlier in the year - to end.

The University of Alabama graduate had been dismayed to find herself in the play-off, having been two shots clear in the qualifying places with just three holes out of the 90 at Q School to play. After the superb 66 she had shot in the second round she hadn't been out of the top 20 automatic qualifying places.

But a bogey six was followed by a bogey five and she needed to hole a good putt on the 18th just to make sure of her place in what turned out to be a seven-woman play-off all vying for the last three cards on offer.

Only five holes were possible before play was suspended on Sunday night, with Meadow one of three players left fighting for the last available place.

She can barely have slept for thinking about what might have been after leaving the Jones course, then it was back yesterday morning for a 7.25am tee-off as battle recommenced.

And it took five more holes to finally nail down the final spot, the players replaying the 10th and 18th holes, Meadow unable to birdie either of them.

That repetition of holes, eventually favoured the American as the play-off stretched to an 11th hole as the players once again set off along the 18th.

"I hit my approach shot in and came up short of the green and we played that hole so many times and I knew exactly how it was going to break," said Beck.

"It was definitely the shot of my life so far."

It probably was, but that was no consolation to Meadow who had come so close to reaching the big time, only to have it snatched away at the very last minute.

Had she secured her full playing rights for next year,Meadow's career plan would have been so much simpler, playing LPGA Tour events in between trying to qualify for the year's four majors.

Now she will have to rely on sponsor's invitations and hope that by qualifying for the majors she can emulate her success of this year when she finished tied for third in the US Open, her first tournament as a professional.

If she can do that it is more than possible for her to earn enough money in the regular season to earn her playing rights. If not it means a return to Qualifying School and the particular perils of that 90-hole five-round ordeal.

She can also expect a few invitations to Ladies' European Tour events, and while money won there won't count towards her card in America, it's all good experience for the future.

Belfast Telegraph

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