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  • 29 Jun
    The oldest major in womens golf, the U.S Womens Open, begins Thursday at CordeValle Golf Club. As players prepare for what is undoubtedly one of the toughest tests in golf, there are two players who stand a chance at contending and neither play on the LPGA Tour.Madelene Sagstrom and Jackie Stoelting both play on the Symetra Tour, the development tour for the LPGA. Sagstrom has already broken the all-time season earnings record with $114,157 through July 1. Stoelting has earned $62,200, which is just behind the $68,673 Annie Park finished the season with in 2015 as the money leader.Ranked Nos. 1 and 2 on the money list with 11 tournaments left for the season, Sagstrom and Stoelting have most likely secured their card for the LPGA next year. To put their dominance this year into perspective, each have won twice this season, with a combined eight top-10 finishes. And both qualified for the U.S. Womens Open through a sectional qualifier in Atlanta.Despite many similarities throughout the season, Sagstrom and Stoelting have different approaches to how they play golf and prepare for a tournament.Sagstrom is in her rookie season as a professional. While competing at LSU, she was a four-time All-American and won SEC player of the year in 2015, her senior year. After failing to secure her LPGA card at the final stage of qualifying school, she committed to playing on the Symetra Tour full time.I was actually more nervous at the second stage of qualifying than finals, Sagstrom admitted. If I didnt get through second stage then that meant I would have to go back to Sweden because I wouldnt be able to get a visa to stay in the States.Stoelting is a veteran of both the LPGA and the Symetra Tours. After making her professional debut in 2008, Stoelting has played consistently. In 2013, she earned conditional status to play on the LPGA but focused her energy on the Symetra Tour. The following year she won Golf Channels Big Break: Reynolds Plantation.She then finished her 2014 season third on the money list and secured full playing rights on the LPGA. She made one cut during the last full-field event on the LPGA, and did not finish high enough to keep her card. This led her back to the Symetra Tour.Each speak differently in terms of how they view golf and perhaps their years of contrasting professional playing experience contribute to their differing approaches.Sagstrom has a mentor who plays on the mens European Tour, and also utilizes a sports psychologist. Based out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Sagstrom has tried to find balance in what has been a whirlwind year. In her first seven starts of the year, she won twice and recorded six top-fives.Going into the season, Sagstrom did not necessarily have high expectations.At her first tournament of the year, Sagstrom called her mentor, stating that she did not feel like she belonged out there. He calmed me down and helped me get through that first week, she said. She finished the tournament tied for third, then finished second the following tournament and clinched her first win in her third start.I have a great team around me, she said referring to her agent, mentor, caddie and sports psychologist.With her family back in Sweden, Sagstrom is walking this journey alone with so much to learn. At 23 years old and fresh out of college, she admits there are challenges to being a rookie, ones she did not foresee.In college you have your coach making all your travel arrangements and taking care of pretty much everything for you. When you turn pro, you dont think about all the responsibilities like booking travel, writing thank you cards to sponsors, or meeting sponsorship obligations. There are a lot of little details that add up and in some ways make professional golf harder than college golf, Sagstrom said.Sagstrom is actually grateful that she did not earn her LPGA card at Q-school, My game would have been ready, I believe, but mentally I dont think I could have handled it. Playing on the Symetra Tour was the best thing that happened to me.Stoeltings approach is much more laid back and less rigorous. She does not have a full-time caddie and instead enlists the help of volunteer caddies that have included her husband Travis (who is also her swing coach) and father when they are able to travel with her on the road. Each of her wins this year took place when Travis and her father caddied for her. When she finished solo second two weeks ago, she had a volunteer caddie.I know my game well enough now that I dont feel I need a full-time caddie out here, she said.She also doesnt have an agent or sports psychologist.I read a lot. Bob Rotella is one of my favorite [sports psychologist authors] to read.Despite her crazy schedule, Stoeltings life seems more settled because the routine of playing professional golf is not new to her.I actually think I have practiced less this year and have conserved my energy a lot better this year.Stoelting believes part of the reason she struggled on the LPGA last year is that she pushed herself too hard and did not give her body enough breaks. A common mistake that many rookies make during their first year on the LPGA is just that, not knowing when to take a break or pushing themselves too much during practice.After Q-school last year I put away my clubs for a month and took a break to decide if I still wanted to play. But I really didnt want to end on a sour note of feeling like I failed on the LPGA. I emailed my dad and basically said, I am going to give myself one more shot. If I dont earn my LPGA card by finishing top 10 on the money list, or get exempt into finals [of qualifying school], I am going to hang it up, Stoelting said.This all-or-nothing approach may seem extreme to many, but it actually provided focus to Stoelting. However, she did not start the year off with a bang. Before qualifying for the U.S. Womens Open, her best finish was tied for 13th. She was playing decent golf, but it all began to click when she played in the U.S. Womens Open qualifier.I would say the turning point for me was the U.S. Open qualifier, which was May 21, she said.After making the turn at the qualifier at 1 over, her husband Travis gave her a pep talk and said, You need to believe that any putt you look at, youre going to make. No matter what the situation, you just gotta believe that youre going to make that putt.Stoelting then laughingly said that Travis kissed her putter. She went on to finish the 36-hole qualifier at 3 under and won in the playoff to secure her spot at the U.S. Womens Open. It was after qualifying that Stoelting won two weeks in a row on the Symetra Tour.When questioned about their preparation for the U.S. Open, each did not surprisingly have different approaches.This will be Sagstroms first time playing in a major, let alone the biggest tournament she has ever played in. This in contrast to Stoelting, who qualified and made the cut at U.S. Womens Open at Sebonack Golf Club in 2013.Sagstrom played CordeValle a few weeks ago to see the course for the first time.The course is in fantastic shape. I cannot wait to see how its going to play during the tournament.She admittedly is a perfectionist and tends to focus on flaws in her swing. This is something she has worked diligently on with her swing coach.Im a very technical player. I have a hard time leaving the golf course if I feel like my swing doesnt look right, she said.She feels like she is learning that just because her swing may be perfect does not necessarily mean she will play perfect golf.Sagstrom is long off the tee, and while she believes she does everything well on the course, its the consistency in her game that she believes will lead to success, and possibly a good week at the U.S. Womens Open.Stoelting has had not seen the course yet, but with Stoeltings prior experience, she believes her consistency of hitting fairways will bode well for her and is focusing on hitting greens and practicing her short game.They may be working on different parts of their game to prepare for the LPGAs third major of the year, but they have the same mentality in how they are approaching viewing the week. Unless they were to win the tournament, no matter how each of them played, it would not affect whether or not they earn their LPGA Tour card.This is like a bonus tournament for me, Sagstrom said, expressing similar sentiments as Stoelting.Stoelting added, I have realized that no matter what tournament I play, 150 yard shot is a 150 yard shot. It doesnt change with the tournament, and that is one thing I have really tried to focus on in realizing that golf is not as complicated as we often make it to be.For each of them, the tournament will be a special week, and their families will be along for the ride. The experience of playing against the best players in the world is an exciting test to see how their games will hold up throughout the week.Its just going to be so much fun to be there, Sagstrom said. Elgton Jenkins Youth Jersey . John Tavares, Thomas Vanek and Kyle Okposo were also being counted on to slow down sizzling Rangers forward Rick Nash. That plan didnt go so well early. 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