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Stephanie Meadow embroiled in US play-off

Ulster girl must see off two others to gain Tour card

By Peter Hutcheon

Stephanie Meadow's quest for a place on the LPGA Tour will resume today in what has proved to be an action-packed play-off.

The Jordanstown native is still on course to be the first woman from Ulster to gain her full playing rights on the main ladies tour in America, but in the midst of a play-off, play was suspended because of fading light in Florida last night.

She is one of three players remaining in the play-off, fighting it out for the last available place on the main tour next season after finishing in a tie for 18th position in the main qualifying school after five rounds.

Seven women entered the play-off looking to secure the last remaining three places on offer and Meadow held her own over five holes before darkness descended on the course.

The prize is tantalisingly within reach for the 23-year-old, who finished an astonishing third in the Ladies US Open earlier this year, as she made her professional debut.

If she does lose out in the remaining holes of the play-off, she will at least have earned some playing privileges on the tour in America next season which can carry her forward in the future.

It's a big money game these days as American Stacey Lewis took home more than two and a half million dollars in prize money last season by topping the money list.

Having been comfortably in the qualifying positions since her second-round 66 on Thursday, it looked as though she would cruise to her card yesterday.

And when she began the fifth and final round, having started the day in 14th place overall, with back-to-back birdies on the opening two holes, she must have thought that the job was done and dusted.

But the wobbles began on the third as she dropped her first shot of the day on the par-three and then she compounded that error with a five on the par-four fourth hole.

To make matters worse, a third dropped shot in a row with a five on the fifth took her to one over for the final round.

She steadied the ship with three pars at the next three holes, but failed to take advantage of the par-five eighth hole and then let yet another shot slip at the par-four ninth hole to go back to two over for the day, and suddenly the gap to 20th position and the automatic qualifying places was just one shot.

She held it together over the next four holes at the start of the back nine with par golf, and moved into a share of 16th place when she birdied the par-five 14th hole.

A par three at the 15th kept her right in the hunt, but then disaster struck.

She was eyeing up another birdie at the final par five of her round, the 16th, which could have cemented her place in the top 20, but she found trouble off the tee which ultimately led to another dropped shot.

Reeling from that disappointment, she found even more trouble at the 17th and the bogey five she made there left her outside the automatic qualifying mark for the first time in a five-way tie for 18th position.

A birdie three at the last would have undone that damage, but in the end she had to settle for a four and, at that stage, a share of 18th place with six others, which took her into the three-hole play-off for the three remaining places on offer.

And she began well enough with a par four at the first of the play-off holes, the ninth, although American Garrett Phillips took the initiative with a birdie three.

Meadow followed up with pars at the 10th and 18th holes as American Jacqui Concolino was eliminated after shooting one over for the three holes as the play-off went to sudden death.

Phillips and Israeli Laetitia Beck secured two of the remaining places with birdies at the fourth extra hole, leaving Meadow to fight it out with Americans Karin Clack and Casey Grice and Korean amateur Julie Yang for the last place going back down the 18th.

American amateur Alison Lee, along with Australian Minee Lee, topped the qualifying school leaderboard at 10 under to secure their playing rights for next season.

Tiger Woods' niece Cheyene, despite a 79 in the second round, came through with a fifth-round 70 to finish tied 11th, after starting the day in a share of 32nd place.

England's Charley Hull closed with a spirited final round of a four-under 68, but that proved to be two shots shy of making the play-off places.

Belfast Telegraph

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