Vandermade aims for LPGA
Brantford's Nicole Vandermade has her eye on qualifying for the LPGA Tour in 2014.
To get there, the 22-year-old Assumption College graduate needs to be one of the stars of the Symetra Tour this season.
"This year, the goal is to be a top-10 player on the Symetra Tour and earn my LPGA Tour card that way," Vandermade said during an interview from Orlando, where she is preparing for the 2013 golf season.
The Symetra Tour is the proving ground for professional women golfers to earn their way to the LPGA. The top-10 money leaders on the Symetra Tour this season will earn a full LPGA exemption for 2014.
Vandermade, who graduated from the University of Texas last spring, played in half a dozen Symetra Tour events last season and finished among the top-90 money earners, which earned her playing privileges on the 2013 Symetra Tour.
After missing the cut for the third stage of the LPGA's qualifying school in the fall, Vandermade set her sights on a strict offseason training regiment that would have her playing her best golf on the Symetra Tour.
"I played well enough on Symetra (last season) to get exempt from the first stage of Q-School and went directly to the second stage," she said. "I played decently, but I had a few rough holes each day so I wasn't able to put a whole tournament together. Obviously, at Q-School, that isn't going to work. I missed the third stage by three shots.
"I've been in Orlando since (October) working on my game and practicing every day."
Vandermade sat down with coach Sean Foley in the fall and mapped out what she needed to do to become a better golfer.
"We sat down and went over last season and what we both thought I needed to improve," she said. "We did a couple of swing changes so that my swing is more reliable and didn't depend so much on timing. We also worked on my short game."
Vandermade wanted to diversify her approach on the course by improving her chipping and putting.
"I've always been a long-game player and I was able to rely on that for so long," she said. "But now that I've played a year of pro golf, I've realized you don't have your game every single week. You need to be able to fall back on other things.
"That makes things a lot less stressful headed into the tournament season."
Vandermade said managing stress is one of toughest challenges facing professional golfers.
"You are out there all alone," she said. "It's so much different than team sports, where teammates help you out. Golf is great and easy when you are playing well, but on those off weeks, it gets pretty stressful.
"I need to make some money now that I've turned pro, so that is a factor, too."
The Symetra Tour will kick off on Feb. 18 with the inaugural VisitMesa.com Gateway Classic in Mesa, Arizona.
Vandermade will wait for the full tournament schedule to be released before plotting her approach to this season.
"There will probably be 16 or 17 events," she said. "Once the schedule is out, I will be able to figure out which ones to go to. Ideally, we can break them up a bit to play really well in the most events possible while avoiding burnout."
Vandermade said earning her way to the LPGA Tour will be her focus all season.
"That's what I've been thinking about day in and day out," she said. "I will be working toward my goal of being top 10 on the money list (for the Symetra Tour) so I can hopefully have my rookie season on the LPGA in 2014."