While she will no doubt be disappointed by her near miss in a Ladies European Tour event in Morocco over the weekend, 32 year old New South Wales golfer, Sarah Kemp, will be buoyed by the boost it has given her both in terms of confidence and bank balance and that it vindicates what must have been a difficult decision for her to make late in 2017.
It was her equal best finish in a four-round event in professional golf and further confirms what must have been a painstaking choice to focus her full attention in Europe rather than continuing her very limited success on the LPGA Tour.
As an amateur Kemp was one of Australia’s best of her era. Victories at the Australian Strokeplay (twice), the Australian Junior Championship and playing in Australian teams at the World Amateur Championship, the Tasman Cup and the Queen Sirikit Cup highlighted a successful amateur career and saw her turn professional in 2005 with significant credentials for a professional career.
She had an excellent first season on the Ladies European Tour in 2006 after comfortably gaining status there at her first attempt at qualifying and later that year finished 9th at the LPGA Tour Q School and played the LPGA Tour as a rookie in 2008. It was a dream start.
Despite the significant progress she had made in such a short time however Kemp regularly flirted between full and conditional status on the LPGA Tour over the next ten years, supplementing her schedule and income by regular visits to the Ladies European Tour.
By late in 2017 however she had reached a point where the idea of continually pursuing the next level on the LPGA Tour proved too much for her and she made the (perhaps difficult) decision to focus her attention in 2018 on the Ladies European Tour.
During the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open Championship in Auckland in September Kemp had reached the crossroads. Being the last full field event of the season and well outside where she needed to be to regain full LPGA Tour status again she needed something special that week if she was to regain the right to play in the US but it was not to be.
Kemp during an Australian event – photo Bruce Young
Kemp did play well in Auckland. After winning a pro am in the lead-up she was well enough placed heading into the horror weather of the final day where a round of 77 saw her finish 41st.
It was a finish which further confirmed the direction she needed and indeed had to take and so any thought of heading back to the LPGA Tour School was abandoned and she would focus her attention on Europe.
“It has been a real mental struggle – I didn’t really start the year well although I haven’t played all that badly, especially tee to green,” said Kemp in Auckland.
“I had a poor year in 2016 and decided not to go back to Tour School which, in hindsight, perhaps I should have but instead played the early season events and because of a reasonable week at the Australian Open I did ok in the re-rank and managed to play a reasonable amount of events but kept missing cuts.
“I look at those around me and feel I can compete but it is just that one up and down or one birdie putt that didn’t go in and there is my 1 or 2 over and on the LPGA Tour you can’t afford to shoot over par as the cuts every week are generally under par.
“So, it has been tough to keep going in the hope that something will turn around and keep pushing through it and ten events later I still haven’t made a cut.”
While the lure of the LPGA Tour and its riches are no doubt enticing, Kemp is well aware that the style of golf and courses in Europe and the countries the Ladies European Tour travels to are better suited to her game.
“I have had a better record there and that the courses are a bit shorter probably suits me but it would be nice to get back to the States.”
By focusing her full attention in Europe in 2018 however Kemp may well rebuild some of the confidence that years of battling the rigours of the LPGA Tour has eaten away and there could well be the opportunity to tackle the US again in the future if she so chooses.
Her performance in Morocco suggests that decision is already being vindicated and that long awaited first win in Europe may not be far away.
She might also see other arenas as a possibility such as Japan and even if she never plays the LPGA Tour again Sarah Kemp is already proving more than capable of building a very successful ongoing career.
Top photo courtesy of Ladies European Tour