Emma de Groot is still an amateur.
But she proved she's among the best golfers looking to turn pro in the near future.
The recent University of Tennessee at Chattanooga graduate from Australia tied for fourth in the first stage of LPGA Tour qualifying school Friday at Daytona Beach, Fla. That advanced her to the next stage Sept. 27-30 in Venice, Fla.
"It's a pretty big deal," said Mocs coach Colette Murray, who caddied for de Groot this week at the LPGA International champions course.
De Groot shot an 11-under-par 277 and advanced by a 16-stroke margin. But she wanted to win the tournament.
She had a chance to beat everybody except Alexis Thompson, who blistered the field at 23 under. Mitsuki Katahira finished second at 13 under, and Mi Hyan Lee shot 12 under.
"I've accomplished what I wanted to do," de Groot said. "I proved to myself that I have the ability to go low and lower than I've ever gone."
And yet like most competitive golfers say, it could have been better. De Groot said she missed more 10-15-foot putts than she made this week.
"I've known for a long time how good she can be, but she's been bashful about the idea," Murray said. "This summer she's put her time into just golf and not had to worry about studies, and she's really starting to shine."
De Groot and former teammate Christine Wolf will play in the U.S. Women's Amateur beginning Aug. 8 at Rhode Island Country Club. Then de Groot will plan for the second stage of Q-school.
"Knowing that I can do it will make it easier," de Groot said while driving back from Florida with Murray.
In between she'll have to decide if she remains an amateur or turns professional.
"Her goal in this process is to get on the LPGA Tour and get her card," Murray said. "I haven't even looked at the Futures Tour. We'll cross that bridge if we have to."
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...