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Going pro in golf

BY ROD ENGBLOM | APRIL 14, 2015 5:00 AM

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The process of transitioning from college golf to professional golf can be challenging, but senior Shelby Phillips will attempt it once she graduates in May.

It’s a long and complex process that begins with the golfer first declaring that she is a pro. The golfer then plays five rounds in what is called “Q school,” qualifying school. At the school, golfers must shoot for a combined average of par or lower in order to obtain the  card to play on the LPGA tour.

The qualifying rounds are held at the LPGA National Course in Orlando, Florida, and it costs around $4,000 to enter the tournament, which adds additional pressure on the golfers to score well.

Even though this is a high stakes undertaking for Phillips, she’s up for the challenge and excited about the attempt at fulfilling her dream.

“I’m pretty excited,” she said. “I’ve been waiting to do this for 15 years now, and I’m excited to see if I can actually do it or not. That’s why I played college golf; it was a chance for me to step up to the next level.”

Phillips has been playing golf since she was seven and has had a love for the sport since then. She decided in high school that she loved the sport enough to make a real effort at going professional.

But playing professional golf is much different from playing in college.

“There’s money involved, and your livelihood kind of depends on it, so there’s a lot more pressure,” Phillips said. “Yes there’s pressure for me to win in college, but it’s not going to make or break my bank account, so I think that’s the mentality, learning how to play for money.”

Professionals in the LPGA can make a substantial amount of money. The earnings of the top-three players in the LPGA are in the $200,000 to $600,000 a year range.

The coaches also play a role in helping the player reach her professional goal.

“We have to get them ready for Q school, which is a very strenuous and stressful test of your golf at the highest level,” assistant coach Todd Selders said. “We try to get them the right equipment to make sure they’re fitted properly and make sure we stay in touch with their swing coaches so we know what they’re working on so we can help them advance.”

Selders also advocated for the players to participate in mini-tours, which are smaller tournaments that the golfers can play when they’re not playing at school to keep their game sharp.

Even though Phillips is the only player right now on the Iowa women’s golf team who is going to officially turn professional in May, sophomore Jessie Sindlinger has going pro on her mind.

“It’s always been a dream to try to go pro,” she said. “But since I’ve started playing college golf and I’ve gotten much better, I’m going to see how it goes in the next couple of years, and maybe I’ll try to get to the next level.”

But becoming a professional golfer on the LPGA tour isn’t guaranteed.

“You pay your entry fee, go play, and see what happens,” Selders said.

Follow @RodEngblom on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa women’s golf team.


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