Doughtie takes big step toward pro career

Published 10:32 pm Friday, November 7, 2008

Lauren Doughtie, a Nansemond-Suffolk Academy alum and currently a senior at North Carolina State, took a major step toward her goal of setting out on a professional golf career on Friday at the Duramed Futures Tour Qualifying Tournament in Lakeland, Fla.

Doughtie finished tied for seventh out of 312 golfers in the four-round tournament. The high finish puts Doughtie in excellent shape to receive exempt status for Duramed Futures Tour events starting in 2009.

Exempted players get top priority to enter the Tour’s events. The Duramed Futures Tour is the LPGA’s equivalent of the Nationwide Tour on the PGA side. In 28 seasons, more than 300 LPGA Tour pros have gone through the Futures Tour to make it into the major league. In the 2007 LPGA season, 15 of the 32 tournaments were won by Futures Tour alums. The Futures Tour tabs itself as “The road to the LPGA and beyond.”

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“It’s definitely a big step,” said Doughtie, “I’ve reached where I’ve been working so hard to get to.”

“Now when I’m ready to turn pro, I’ll know it’s there for me.”

Players who go through the Duramed Futures Tour Qualifying Tournament can retain their amateur status until they decide to turn pro. Amateurs who go to LPGA Qualifying School and qualify, must either accept their berth and turn pro immediately, or give up their qualification.

In Doughtie’s case, that means she won’t have to decide between finishing her senior year at N.C. State and deciding whether or not to go pro.

“Right now, that probably means the end of May,” said Doughtie, who became the first N.C. State female golfer to reach the NCAA Tournament last spring and won the Virginia State Women’s Amateur Championship in July.

The four rounds were divided among three courses, two in Lakeland, Fla. and one in Mulberry, Fla. Doughtie’s opening round, at Imperial Lakes Country Club in Mulberry, was her highest of the week. Her 75 included three bogeys on the final three holes and put her in a tie for 75th after one round.

“I came back well and played solid golf. I knew I had to get through the week and just put up good numbers.”

Doughtie shot three-under-par 69 at Cleveland Heights Golf Course on Wednesday to move all the way to 17th place. On Thursday, Doughtie carded a one-under-par 71 at Huntington Hills Golf Course; and Doughtie remained under par with another 69 at Cleveland Heights on Friday.

Officially, Doughtie must wait to learn her status for next year’s Futures Tour, but according to the Duramed Futures Tour Web site, “approximately 40-50 players receive exempt status each year,” so Doughtie’s seventh-place finish is easily in the clear.

“This lets me focus on school, and finishing this semester. It’s crunch time, there’s about a month left in this semester. Then I can focus on working for the spring season and I can be ready for that,” said Doughtie.

The 2008 Futures Tour schedule had 18 tournaments from March to October. The top 10 players at the end of each season automatically qualify for the LPGA Tour.