The 2016 LPGA Tour schedule begins this week in the Bahamas, and just like recent seasons, there are only a handful of Georgia golfers among the tour’s members.
Two Georgians begin the 2016 season with exempt status, with a third enjoying limited status after finishing outside the top 100 last year. One of the two exempt players is Ashlan Ramsey of Milledgeville, the former world No. 1-ranked amateur, who earned her spot on the tour with a top-10 finish in the finals of qualifying late last year.
Brunswick’s Katie Burnett placed 85th on the 2015 money list and is exempt for her fourth LPGA season. Valdosta’s Dori Carter fell from 70th in 2014 to 106th last year and has limited status for 2016, with the likelihood of making 8 to 12 starts. Newnan’s Jean Reynolds also has limited status, but got into only one tournament last year in a similar situation.
Burnett has exceeded $100,000 each of the last two seasons, placing 87th on the money list in 2014 with $119,000 and inching up two spots to 85th last year with almost $110,000. She made 13 of 21 cuts both seasons, with her top finish a tie for ninth in Hawaii in 2014. Her best showings last year were a pair of ties for 19th.
After setting the school scoring record during her career at South Carolina, Burnett turned pro in 2012 and spent her first full season as a tour player competing in both Europe and the U.S. She played well in a brief stint in Europe, but began playing the LPGA Tour full time later that year, finishing the season 99th on the money list after making just 11 starts.
Carter has been an LPGA Tour member since 2011, but has lost her fully exempt status after enjoying her best season in 2014. Carter made 20 of 26 cuts that season, earning $194,000 to finish 70th on the money list. She had two top-10 finishes including a tie for sixth in the North Texas Shootout, and set a course record with a 64 in the Kia Classic in Los Angeles.
Last year, however, she missed 12 of 20 cuts, and finished 106th in earnings with $59,000. She returned to the tour’s qualifier, but missed making the 72-hole cut by just one shot.
Carter turned pro in 2010 after twice earning first team all-SEC honors at Ole Miss, and won a tournament on the Symetra Tour that year. She qualified for the 2011 LPGA Tour and gradually worked her way up to exempt status, placing 99th and 104th on the money list in 2012 and ’13.
Ramsey is among the more prominent rookies on tour this season, closing out 2015 with an outstanding final round in the qualifying finals to earn her tour card. Ramsey shot 67 the final day to easily move into the top 20, finishing the 90-hole event at 8-under 352 to tie for eighth.
After attaining the rank of the world’s No. 1 amateur in 2013, Ramsey spent one season at Clemson, turning pro after competing in the 2014 Curtis Cup. A back injury and partial status on the 2015 Symetra Tour limited her tournament appearances last year, but she managed to score an impressive victory in the Georgia Women’s Open and was 74th on the Symetra Tour money list after missing the first half of the season.
Reynolds and Jonesboro’s Lacey Agnew were the top Georgia finishers on the Symetra Tour last year, placing 31st and 33rd respectively in earnings. Both have played the tour for several seasons, with Reynolds spending the 2010 and ’11 seasons on the LPGA Tour as well.
Reynolds has played on the Symetra Tour since 2008 and has two career victories. Agnew, who played her college golf at Florida State, has been a steady performer on the Symetra Tour the past few seasons.
Garrett Phillips of St. Simons Island will be back on the Symetra Tour this season after competing as a rookie on the LPGA Tour in 2015. Phillips made the cut last year in her first start in Australia, but did not make the cut the rest of the season, missing 12 in a row. Phillips played two years at Augusta State before closing out her college career with two years at Georgia.
The 2016 LPGA season will be the 10th in a row without a Georgia stop, with Eagle’s Landing last hosting an event in 2006. The tour played annually at the south metro Atlanta course beginning in 1992, but one year after Chick-fil-A ended its role as title sponsor, the tournament folded.
The only remaining tour event in the Southeast is a tournament at the Robert Trent Jones Trail facility outside Montgomery, with the tournament played at the RTJ Trail facility in Mobile dropping off the schedule last year.
The 2016 schedule again has a strong international flavor, with the early and late potions of the calendar featuring as many as nine events in Asia, depending on whether China continues to host a second tournament after cancelling one last year. There are also two tournaments in Europe and Canada and one each in the Bahamas and Mexico, leaving slightly over half of the 2016 schedule in the U.S.
The three LPGA majors played on a rotation of courses will be held at sites accustomed to hosting men’s tour events. The Women’s PGA Championship (formerly LPGA Championship), will be played June 9-12 at Sahalee outside Seattle, which has hosted the PGA Championship and U.S. Senior Open. The U.S. Women’s Open will also be played on the West Coast, with Corde Valle GC in northern California, the former site of the PGA Tour Frys.com Open, hosting July 7-10. The Women’s British Open is set for July 28-31 at Woburn GC in England, which has hosted numerous European and European Senior Tour events, as well as previous Women’s British Opens.
A tournament in Michigan sponsored by Volvik is the only addition to the 2016 LPGA schedule, with the Olympic week of golf set for August 18-21, the week after the men play.
The tour continues to be dominated by Asian players, with Lydia Ko and Inbee Park winning five times each last year and combining for three majors, and a previously unknown Korean player capturing the U.S. Women’s Open. American golfers won just seven of 31 tournaments in 2015, two each by Lexi Thompson and Christie Kerr, with Brittany Lincicome collecting her second victory in the event formerly known as the Dinah Shore.
Stacy Lewis was winless last year, but played well enough to finish third on the money list thanks to nine finishes of second and third, including a playoff loss to Lincicome in Palm Springs. Thompson and Kerr were the only other Americans in the top 10, with Morgan Pressel and Gerina Piller joining Lincicome in the top 20.
Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie both barely cracked the top 50, with Creamer winning just once since her U.S. Open triumph in 2010 and Wie winless since claiming her title in 2014.