It’s always a big deal for Canadians Maddie Szeryk and Maude-Aimée LeBlanc to play this week in the CP Women’s Open, an LPGA Tour event and their national championship. But it’s not as important as the tournaments that lie ahead for them.
Szeryk, a rookie pro, and veteran LeBlanc are Canada’s top performers on the second-tier Symetra Tour this season. They are both trying to get into the top 10 on the circuit’s money list and thus earn a promotion to the LPGA Tour for 2020.
So while they’re playing for a US$2.25-million purse this week – 10 to 20 times bigger than what they would see any other week – they’re also looking ahead to the final five Symetra events.
Szeryk, a dual U.S.-Canada citizen whose Canadian base is in London, Ont., is in 13th spot on the Symetra money list but just US$5,000 away from 10th. LeBlanc of Sherbrooke is 20th.
“At least two of the [remaining] events have big purses and they are going to be key,” said LeBlanc, 30, who has had LPGA Tour status for most of her eight-year pro career but didn’t keep her card last year. “I’m going to have to be able to play well those weeks to give myself a good chance to get in the top 10.”
“If I have one strong week, I’m right there,” Szeryk added.
They’re both able to play in the CP Women’s Open because the Symetra Tour has this week off. This is Szeryk’s fourth career appearance in the championship and LeBlanc’s 11th.
Szeryk, 23, is an up-and-comer who played on Canada’s national amateur team for four years and notched four collegiate wins, playing for Texas A&M, before turning professional last year. She won a mini-tour event in her pro debut.
Her Symetra foray has gone well and has included four top-10 finishes, including one runner-up. “It was a little overwhelming at first but I’ve definitely kind of settled in and I’m excited,” Szeryk said of her Symetra experience, speaking ahead of Thursday’s opening round of the CP Women’s Open. “It’s gone really well and I feel comfortable out there.”
LeBlanc has had five top-10s, including three in her past four outings. The 6-foot-1 player, also a national team member in her amateur days, is known for her long drives but it’s her putting that has lifted her this season, she said.
About two months ago, she changed her putter, her grip, her stance and even her mental approach to golf’s shortest stroke. “My putting is definitely what has been keeping me away from getting to my potential or being more consistent on the LPGA,” she said. “So I’m really happy I’ve figured it out this year.”
Even if they don’t quite reach the top 10 by season’s end, they would still have another chance to earn their LPGA cards at the tour’s qualifying school. They would join Q-school in the third and final stage in late October and each be competing for one of the 45 cards available.
But for another day at least, before they return to the Symetra Tour next week in Sioux Falls, S.D., they’ve got the chance to enjoy the LPGA Tour and its stop this week at Magna Golf Club in Aurora, Ont. LeBlanc opened with a five-over-par 77 and like Szeryk, who shot a 78, will have her work cut out for if she wants to make the cut on Friday.
But as LeBlanc said before the tournament began, “I don’t really have anything to lose out here this week. So I’ll just try to enjoy it.”