Search

Rookie Dilemma After eight hard years of trying, Elizabeth Bowman finally made it to the big leagues, the LPGA. Now if only she could find a way to get into that tour's tournaments...

July 01, 2002
July 01, 2002

Table of Contents
July 1, 2002

Rookie Dilemma After eight hard years of trying, Elizabeth Bowman finally made it to the big leagues, the LPGA. Now if only she could find a way to get into that tour's tournaments...

It was a little white package, lumpy from the bubble wrap. It
arrived in January without warning, but Elizabeth Bowman knew its
contents as soon as she spied the LPGA's return address. Jumping
around her house in Bonita, Calif., Bowman kept screaming, "It's
my clip! It's my clip!"

This is an article from the July 1, 2002 issue

A long hitter with a sometimes shaky short game, the 5'11"
Bowman had spent the previous eight years haunting the Futures
tour, a Crash Davis in SoftSpikes, trying to earn that badge.
Fifth on that podunk circuit's alltime money list, Bowman, 31,
had been inside the ropes of an LPGA tournament only once--as a
17-year-old standard-bearer at the 1988 San Diego Inamori
Classic. Oh, she had come close in the years since. In '99 she
finished fourth on the Futures money list, $154 short of the
automatic LPGA exemption conferred upon the top three. But
despite seven attempts, Bowman had never gotten through LPGA Q
school, shooting her share of final-round 78s. She was so
pessimistic heading into the 2001 school last October that she
posted her resume on monster.com, preparing for life in the
straight world. Then something miraculous happened. Bowman fired
a 68 in the final round of Q school, rising from the cut line to
25th place and earning nonexempt status on tour. Three months
later the package arrived from the LPGA.

The tour's official money clip features a gold-and-silver
medallion engraved with the LPGA logo and the player's name. It
is the most tangible sign of tour membership. "That little clip
represents a lifetime of hard work, dedication and desire," says
Bowman, who at age 11 bought her first set of sticks--ladies'
clubs, with sky-blue grips and matching headcovers--with $100
earned from a San Diego Union-Tribune paper route. "It's a very
small object, but it has great symbolic meaning."

Unfortunately for Bowman, the money clip has only gotten her in
the gate at LPGA events, not into the tournament fields. With the
tour's schedule shrinking as fast as Cristie Kerr's waistline,
dropping from 32 full-field tournaments in 2000 to only 22 this
season, Bowman picked a bad year to be a rookie. As the calendar
hits July, she has played in only three tournaments and has yet
to earn a cent. Last week was typical of her bad luck. Having
moved up to second alternate for the Wegmans Rochester LPGA, she
flew from California to upstate New York and spent Tuesday and
Wednesday killing time on the range at Locust Hill Country Club,
the whole time fighting the feeling that she didn't belong. In
the end Bowman didn't make it into the field, and all she had to
show for the trip was $1,100 in expenses and one more sour
experience. "It's definitely not how I dreamed it would be," she
says, taking in the sad scope of her rookie season.

Bowman's lost year actually began at Q school, where she shot a
four-round total of 293 on the Legends course at LPGA
International in Daytona Beach. Only the top 18 finishers were
rewarded with unconditional exemptions. Two shots out of 17th
place, Bowman's nonexempt status puts her near the bottom of the
tour's pecking order when it comes time to make up a tournament's
field (page G7). With this year's reduced schedule few players
are skipping any tournaments, meaning there is no room for the
likes of Bowman. (In 2000 the 23rd-place finisher at Q school,
Heather Bowie, played in 20 events, earning $164,829 to finish
54th on the money list.) This has left Bowman with only two
options for getting into LPGA events--through Monday qualifying
and by begging for sponsors' exemptions. She has struck out on
both fronts.

Monday qualifying is a crapshoot in the best of times, but the
odds have grown even longer this year, as 30 or more women have
routinely shown up to roll the dice for only two spots. Bowman
feels that the all-or-nothing pressure only sets up players for
disappointment. "It's a U.S. Open mentality, where your life
depends on every shot," says Bowman, who is 0 for 6 this year in
Monday qualifiers. "If you don't make it, you start to beat
yourself up, doubting yourself."

Bowman's own plunging confidence has not gone unnoticed by those
close to her. "Everyone talks about how failure makes you
stronger, but sometimes too much failure isn't healthy," says
Judy Bowman, Elizabeth's mother. "Elizabeth has been knocked down
so many times that it's had a negative effect on her career."

As for sponsors' exemptions, Elizabeth hasn't capitalized on her
UCLA communications degree, failing to market herself with the
same tenacity as some of her colleagues. "There have been times
this year when I felt more like a businesswoman than a
professional golfer," says Hilary Homeyer, another nonexempt
rookie who has played in only three events in 2002. "I would
practice for three hours in the morning and spend the afternoon
writing letters, talking to people on the phone, simply trying to
get my name out there in hopes of getting into a couple of extra
tournaments."

Mark Hersch, the tournament director of the recent
Kellogg-Keebler Classic in Aurora, Ill., has seen those efforts
firsthand. "I had a file folder of player correspondence five
inches thick," he says. "Players are learning real quick that
they not only have to be talented golfers, but they also have to
be good at marketing themselves."

Bowman has been so desperate for a place to play that she has
swallowed her pride and skulked back to the Futures tour. "I
thought I had said my goodbyes to that tour," says Bowman, who
has played in two Futures events this year, including the El Paso
Classic, in which she shot a career-low 65 while tying for
fourth.

For the season her Futures earnings are only $4,102. Bowman has
remained solvent thanks to the generosity of a group of Los
Angeles businessmen who have sponsored her. "It's not a handout,
but if I don't make any money, I know that I won't have a Grand
Canyon of debt," she says.

About the only good thing to come out of this strange rookie
year, says Bowman, is that "I have been a normal person for a
change because I've been home so much." Bowman has used much of
her downtime working on the details of her November wedding to
Brad Benson, the vice president of a family-owned building supply
company in San Diego. While they had selected a church (First
United Methodist in San Diego) and a reception hall (the Thursday
Club in Point Loma), Bowman and Benson only recently came up with
a theme (Asian/California contemporary). Benson jokes that they
nixed anything golf-related because they didn't want Bowman's
hard luck to rub off on the ceremony.

When not obsessing over floral arrangements and seating charts,
the couple run and swim and practice yoga together, as well as
compete in a variety of sports. "He is the first and last guy who
is better than me in anything," says Bowman, who starred in
basketball and volleyball at Bonita Vista High. "I can beat him
in golf, but in everything else he kills me. Normally I can beat
the guys in everything." Bowman is quick to add that she would
rather be competing against Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb than
her fiance.

The lot of the nonexempt player is not likely to improve. "As of
now, we aren't planning to make alterations to the criteria [for
earning a place in tournament fields]," says Barb Trammell, the
LPGA's vice president of tournament operations, "but after every
season we evaluate the situation." Five years ago the LPGA
increased the number of cards--from the top 30 (and ties) at Q
school to the top 35--because the association was having trouble
filling fields. Trammell is sympathetic to the plight of the
nonexempt rookies, but says the players knew what the situation
was heading into this season. "We promise nothing," she says.
"They were told that the opportunity to play may be very
limited."

Bowman's colleague Bowie sees a virtue even in this limited
experience. "Liz is better off this year than last year, no
matter how bad it's been," Bowie says. "She is still going to
play in more LPGA events than she did last year. She knows she is
a member of the tour, and that should help her confidence in the
future."

Unfortunately, Bowman is running out of next years. "I kept going
all these years because I thought everyone's time line for
success was different," she says. "But if I am in the same
situation as I am this year, I don't envision myself playing golf
for a living. It's almost as if it's exempt status or nothing,
and I'm tired of having nothing."

Read a new installment of Tom Hanson's Inside the LPGA column
every Monday on golfonline.com.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEY TERRILL SILVER LINING Unable to get into LPGA tournaments, Bowman has spent lots of time with her fiance, Benson, and Shelby.COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON TOUGH GOING Bowman has missed the cut in her three LPGA starts.COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON SOLDIERING ON Bowman, who last played in an LPGA event at the Corning Classic in May, has not earned a cent on the tour in 2002.COLOR PHOTO: DON HEUPEL/AP EASY IN Webb, whose win in Rochester was her first of 2002, was eligible to enter the event under seven of the LPGA's 22 criteria.

How the Field Was Made

How can a healthy, eager LPGA cardholder have played in only
three tournaments so far this year? Elizabeth Bowman's
predicament is a matter of simple math. There are about 225
active members of the tour, but the typical tournament
accommodates only 144 players. The LPGA has a 22-tiered pecking
order to determine participation in tournaments; the first 12
criteria apply to exempt players and the remaining criteria to
nonexempts like Bowman. (She falls under criterion No. 18.)
Here's how the field--minus Monday qualifiers and sponsor's
exemptions--was made up at last week's Wegmans Rochester LPGA.

EXEMPT PLAYER CRITERIA

1. Top 90 from 2001 money list: Helen Alfredsson, Danielle
Ammaccapane, Dina Ammaccapane, Marisa Baena, Tina Barrett, Jean
Bartholomew, Audra Burks, Brandie Burton, Dawn Coe-Jones, Jane
Crafter, Heather Daly-Donofrio, Beth Daniel, Laura Davies, Sally
Dee, Dorothy Delasin, Wendy Doolan, Moira Dunn, A.J. Eathorne,
Michelle Estill, Tina Fischer, Amy Fruhwirth, Kate Golden, Tammie
Green, Sophie Gustafson, Penny Hammel, Hee-Won Han, Tracy Hanson,
Maria Hjorth, Pat Hurst, Juli Inkster, Becky Iverson, Jeon Jang,
Cathy Johnston-Forbes, Rosie Jones, Cristie Kerr, Denise Killeen,
Mi Hyun Kim, Emilee Klein, Kelli Kuehne, Jenny Lidback, Yu Ping
Lin, Leta Lindley, Meg Mallon, Kathryn Marshall, Jill McGill,
Marnie McGuire, Becky Morgan, Barb Mucha, Liselotte Neumann, Se
Ri Pak, Gloria Park, Kristal Parker-Manzo, Kelly Robbins, Jenny
Rosales, Kim Saiki, Cindy Schreyer, Nancy Scranton, Pearl Sinn,
Charlotta Sorenstam, Leslie Spalding, Sherri Steinhauer, Karen
Stupples, Rachel Teske, Sherri Turner, Wendy Ward, Shani Waugh,
Karrie Webb, Karen Weiss, Kim Williams (total: 69).

2. Top 50 from 2000 money list: Joanne Morley, Susie Parry (2).

3. Top 50 from 2000 and 2001 money lists, through final
full-field events of '00 and '01, respectively: (0).

4. One win in the three preceding calendar years (1999-2001):
Mardi Lunn, Catrin Nilsmark (2).

5. Two or more wins, the last in one of the five preceding
calendar years (1997-2001): Dale Eggeling, Gail Graham, Chris
Johnson, Deb Richard, Nancy Lopez (5).

6. One win in a major in the five preceding calendar years: (0).

7. Top 40 on the final 2001 career money list. Player must have
played in 10 or more events at least once in the last two
calendar years (2000-2001): JoAnne Carner, Jane Geddes, Val
Skinner, Jan Stephenson (4).

8. Top 18 finishers at 2001 Q school: Beth Bader, Patricia
Baxter-Johnson, Ashli Bunch, Jeanne-Marie Busuttil, Jenna
Daniels, Natascha Fink, Tonya Gill, Natalie Gulbis, Carmen
Hajjar, Shiho Katano, Sunny Lee, Siew-Ai Lim, Smriti Mehra,
Namika Omata, Suzanne Strudwick (15).

9. Players receiving medical extensions in 2001 who earned cards
at 2000 Q school: Eva Dahllof (1).

10. Medical extensions: (0).

11. Tournament winners from 2001 who were not tour members at the
time of their victory: (0)

12. Top three on 2001 Futures tour money list: Beth Bauer, Angela
Buzminski, Jung Yeon Lee (3).

NONEXEMPT PLAYER CRITERIA

13. Winners of official events, ranked by number of victories:
Sally Little, Patti Rizzo (2).

14. International players who forfeit an earned exemption: (0).

15. Top 90 on the 2002 money list at the end of the current
trimester: Silvia Cavalleri, Michelle Ellis, Stephanie Keever,
Candie Kung, Laurie Rinker-Graham, Angela Stanford (6).

16. The next 35 players, after 90th, on the 2001 money list who
are not otherwise exempt by a different criteria: Anna
Acker-Macosko, Luciana Bemvenuti, Nanci Bowen, Laurie Brower,
Diana D'Alessio, Annette DeLuca, Tamie Durdin, Mitzi Edge, Vicki
Fergon, Jen Hanna, Nancy Harvey, Johanna Head, Jennifer Hubbard,
Jamie Hullett, Pamela Kerrigan, Marilyn Lovander, Dodie Mazzuca,
Marianne Morris, Marcy Newton, Vicki Odegard, Karen Pearce, Fiona
Pike, Cindy Rarick, Sara Sanders, Maggie Will, Carri Wood (26).

17. Category A tournament winners, ranked by number of victories,
with ties broken by career money list: Allison Finney, Lisa
Kiggens, Anne Marie Palli, Julie Piers, Joan Pitcock (5).

18. Players who finished 19th to 53rd at 2001 Q school: (0).

19. Category B tournament winners, ranked by number of victories,
with ties broken by career money list: (0).

20. Class A or international members in order of position on
career money list: (0).

21. LPGA Associate Class A members, in order of position on
career money list: (0).

22. Class A and B LPGA Teaching and Club Pro members: (0).

Trammell says the nonexempt rookies "were told that the
opportunity to play may be very limited."