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For many who hope to make it on tour and into the world of professional golf, the first hurdle to clear is making it through the qualifying tour. The official name of “Q-School” is the LPGA/Symetra Tour Qualifying Tournament.
Q-School is a three-stage process. There is Stage I, Stage II, and then ultimately the LPGA Q-Series which is a two-week tournament that determines tour playing status for the year ahead. Q-School is daunting; there is no limit on entries and the field is full of talented golfers looking to make their splash on the big stage.
Only 95 players advance to Stage II and this year, two Bay State natives are heading to Florida from October 18-24 as part of the low 95 to make the cut and keep their dream alive.
Camden Morrison (Millis) finished 1-under-par 287 to finish T49 and comfortably make her way into Stage II. Jacquelyn Eleey (Quincy) fired an even-par mark of 288 and finished T62 to also comfortably finish above the 3-over cutline.
On the surface, Camden Morrison and Jacquelyn Eleey are pretty similar to one another. Eleey, 26, played collegiate golf and is on her third attempt to make it through Q-School and onto the tour. Morrison, 25, was also a collegiate golfer and going through for the second time.
However, going a little bit deeper, Morrison and Eleey have different stories and took different paths to reach the point they are at today. Both are happy to be through to Stage II, but their focus is not on what they’ve done, rather on what they need to do to reach their ultimate goal.
Camden Morrison didn’t always seem destined to be pushing her way towards the LPGA Tour. She didn’t pick up golf until age 12, her lone collegiate offer was from Division II Franklin Pierce University, and her freshman year of college the average score she shot was an 86.
Still, she always had one thing that every competitor needs: belief in herself.
“Ever since I was 12 years old I told my parents I was going to be a professional golfer,” Morrison said. “I always believed that I’ve always wanted to do it, and I’ve never stopped believing it. Every decision I ever made, starting at 14 and working at golf courses and everything was to put me in a position to hopefully play and chase my dream.”
Morrison does not come from a golf family. She sparsely competed in Junior events and began working at Maple Gate Country Club in Bellingham so she could mix work with play. As the years went on, her game developed, and it was Franklin Pierce’s Head Men’s and Women’s Golf Coach Tyler Bishop who took a chance on her.
“When I got to college, it kind of allowed me to get that experience of playing in events and learn from playing in events,” Morrison said. “It kind of allowed me to grow faster. I always wanted to play on tour, that was always what I wanted to do.”
Morrison proved to catch on quick. After her first year shooting an average of 86, she emerged as one of the best players in the program. She played in eight tournaments as a sophomore and averaged a score of 78.4 while earning Northeast-10 Women’s Golf Player of the Week honors four times.
By her junior season, she was participating in the NCAA Division II Championship as an individual. She was the Northeast-10 Women’s Golfer of the Year and a member of the NE10 Women’s Golf First Team.
Morrison wrapped up her career repeating as an individual NCAA Division II Championship Participant, being named the Northeast-10 Conference Women’s Golfer of the Year, and earning a place on the NE10 Women’s Golf First Team. That time around, she also added NE10 All-Championship team members to her honors.
Now years removed from her collegiate success, Morrison’s dream of playing on tour is alive and well. She completed Stage I of Q-School shooting 69-73-71-74 to finish 1-under 287 and reach the elusive Stage II.
“It feels really good to move on to Stage II,” Morrison said. “It’s a very stressful process when you’re in Stage I. You know what’s at stake and you try and just stay present in the moment, but you have a little bit of trouble sleeping and you know what it could mean for you if you get through to Stage II.”
In 2019, Morrison made it to the final day on Sunday but missed the cut to Stage II. She never stopped working and credits Bishop, as well as Alana Swain of TPC Sawgrass at the PGA Tour Performance Center for helping grow her game.
“She’s an unbelievable coach,” Morrison said. “As a person and as a coach and someone who I’m very close with, she’s unbelievable. The way she thinks about the golf swing and how she communicates with me is unlike any other communication relationship I’ve had with a coach before. She knows exactly what to say and when to say it and it always has a big impact on me and I respect her a lot.”
Morrison, who is an Assistant Golf Professional at Tedesco Country Club in Marblehead, can look forward to Stage II in October as she takes the next step forward towards achieving her dream.
“I’m going to stay focused on some of the areas that I struggled with in Stage I which was a couple of bunker shots, situational bunker shots, and a couple of situational chip shots,” she said.
“I’m focused on those two things and continuing to play a lot of holes, do a lot of putting practice, see the ball in the hole, and keep it super simple. I don’t want to put pressure on myself, have expectations, and just control what I can control day-to-day to put myself in the best position possible for when I arrive at Stage II and so on.”
Morrison has been getting better her entire golf career and there’s no time like the present to keep that trend going through Q-School.
Jacquelyn Eleey is no stranger to Q-School. The 26-year-old was going through it for the third time and this year her rounds of 71-74-74-69 were enough to finally help her survive the cut and move into Stage II.
“I know there’s more work to be done, but it just feels really good,” Eleey said.
Her advancement didn’t come without some drama. Eleey needed consecutive birdies, including a 15-footer on the 18th, to close out her third round and avoid the initial cut. She stepped up clutch and then left no doubt with her 3-under mark in the fourth and final round.
Despite it being a nerve-wracking situation, Eleey used the memory of one of her old Mass Golf experiences to settle herself down before taking the long putt on 18.
“It was actually kind of funny, I was just kind of thinking of putts I’d made and I actually came back to a Mass Golf moment,” she said. “I had to make a putt at the Ouimet Memorial Tournament a couple of years ago to not force a playoff and it was kind of the same breaking putt, same length, and everything, and walking up to the green I was like thinking about that when I had to make this one too. It’s funny how it came full circle.”
The approach worked and now Eleey can take a breath knowing she’ll be heading down to Florida for Stage II.
Eleey, who began playing the game when she was nine and got into competitive golf by age 12, now belongs to ChampionsGate Golf Club in Davenport, Florida. Like Morrison, her career has been all about getting better every year.
While she’s still chasing the tour, she has an impressive resume. Eleey won the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship in 2016, the Ouimet Memorial Women’s Division in 2017 and 2018, and she played for four years at Division I Georgetown University.
Eleey was a Big East Individual Champion her senior year and a member of the All-Big East Team. She played in all 11 tournaments for the Hoyas with a stroke average of 74.85. Her entire college career was a success, but the light really went off for Eleey after her sophomore year.
“My junior year I kind of made a jump and just saw how good I got in college,” she said. “That’s when I thought I want to take this to the pro level. Once I graduated, I thought this is it and this is the time to do it. I don’t really want the ‘what if’ question when I’m 40. I’ve been doing it ever since I graduated and it’s been a grind, but it’s been super fulfilling.”
Eleey works with swing coach Bob Lohr out of ChampionsGate and putting coach Ron Stockton as she continues to grow and evolve her game. She has been working with Lohr since she was young and credits him for much of her success.
“He almost knows my swing better than I do, so he’s been great,” she said. “I was able to see him and get together with him a week before I headed out to Q-School because I was on the road for three months. It was nice to get a tune-up with him.”
Overall, Eleey is enjoying her ride and she has also taken note of the current and growing talent level in the women’s golf game.
“It’s really cool to see how much the game of golf is growing,” Eleey said. “The cut this year was a couple of shots lower than it was two years ago and I feel like the cut just keeps getting closer and closer to even each year. It just shows how the game of golf is growing, all the girls are getting better and stronger, hitting it further, making more birdies, and I think it’s awesome to see for the game of golf just how competitive it’s getting.”
Eleey certainly belongs amongst the talented environment she has played her way into and she’ll look to keep going on her way to the next step of finally grabbing a spot on tour.
Stage II of Q-School will be played from October 18-24 at Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice, Florida on the Bobcat and Panther courses.