Sneak Peek: This article will appear in the Oct. 7 issue of Global Golf Post.
“A phenomenal ballstriker – like uncanny good.”
“She works harder than any touring pro I work with.”
These are just a few words on Ina Kim-Schaad, the reigning U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, from her coach, PGA professional Jeff Paton.
After an 11-year hiatus from the game and a successful career in the financial world, Kim-Schaad is now putting all of her focus into golf.
The 36-year-old, who is originally from Los Angeles but now lives in New York City, will compete in Stage II of the LPGA Q-School at Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice, Fla., starting Oct. 14. She advanced through the first stage of qualifying in August.
This is Kim-Schaad’s third trip to Q-School in as many years, but she has no plans to turn professional.
As she did this year and last, she plans to compete as an amateur on the Symetra Tour, the LPGA’s developmental circuit. In 2018, after earning Symetra Tour status at Q-School the previous fall, she played in six tournaments and made the cut twice – at the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic, finishing in a tie for seventh, and the Fuccillo Kia Classic of NY, finishing T52. After earning similar status for this year, she played in just one tournament, the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic, missing the cut.
“It’s just another way for me to benchmark myself,” Kim-Schaad said.
Since there is no amateur tournament schedule geared toward women’s mid-amateur players, Kim-Schaad sees playing the Symetra Tour as an opportunity to play against highly skilled players, while earning the World Amateur Golf Ranking points on offer to amateur competitors.
According to Heather Daly-Donofrio, the LPGA’s chief tour operations officer: “Per Symetra Tour regulations, a player is able to earn membership and compete as either an amateur or professional. A player is not required to turn professional at any time or ever. Historically, we have had many players compete as amateurs without ever turning professional for a variety of reasons.
“Ina has been an amateur member of the Symetra Tour since 2018 and we are absolutely happy to have her as a member (whether amateur or professional) and see it as a positive that she finds the Symetra Tour a strong platform to keep her game sharp while helping her make gains in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.”
“If I get Symetra (Tour) status (for 2020), I’ll be able to play in some tournaments as an amateur again. There’s a lot better WAGR points, and just a lot of benefits.” – Ina Kim-Schaad
Kim-Schaad likes the idea of playing on the Symetra Tour.
“If I get Symetra (Tour) status (for 2020), I’ll be able to play in some tournaments as an amateur again,” Kim-Schaad said. “There’s a lot better WAGR points, and just a lot of benefits. … It gives me tournaments to play in. And like I said, for mid-ams, there’s really not as robust a schedule like there is for amateur or college players, if you’re trying to keep up with them.
“In terms of gaining WAGR points, this is really your only option as a mid-am. It’s an unusual spot to be in, but we’re really … it’s hard to say this. The WAGR points aren’t really geared toward mid-ams and they don’t really know what to do with us. So this is the best option I have right now.”
Kim-Schaad is ranked outside the top 1,000 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking. She will earn Symetra Tour status if she completes 72 holes at Stage II, which has no cut. She said that she plans to compete as an amateur in the Q-Series, the LPGA’s two-tournament final qualifying stage, if she qualifies. She would need to turn professional to claim LPGA status should she earn it via the Q-Series, but Kim-Schaad said she has no intention of doing so. She doesn’t want a pro career now, and she never did.
A former junior standout who played golf at Northwestern University and captained the golf team in her senior season of 2004-05, Kim-Schaad wanted to explore things other than golf.
“Honestly for me a big reason I chose Northwestern was that it was a really good academic school and a really good golf school,” Kim-Schaad said. “I knew I always wanted to go to school for the academics – and it had both for me – but when I got there, I loved golf, but I really felt like I wanted to see what else was out there.
“So after my fourth year, I closed that chapter of my life.
“I played golf from 6 or 7 years old until I was a senior in college. It was just so dominant in my life for so long, I wanted to see what else I could explore and what skills I could develop and what I could do in the business world.”
Kim-Schaad, who studied communications and business at Northwestern, worked in finance for 11 years before leaving the field a little more than three years ago. She wanted to take a year or two off and possibly pursue entrepreneurial opportunities, but with a little push from the man who is her now husband, Ian Schaad, Kim-Schaad began falling in love with golf all over again.
“He encouraged me to start playing again,” Kim-Schaad said. “He asked me to occasionally come play on the weekends, and I would. And that’s when I got that golf bug again.”
She resumed competing in the summer of 2016. In her first tournament back, she won the Metropolitan Golf Association’s Women’s Amateur, seemingly picking up right where she left off.
“From a ballstriking perspective, she was still pretty darn good,” Paton said. “She just seems like she never really loses that side of things. But we needed to do a lot to sharpen the edges of her short game and putting and just the strategic aspect of scoring again. Going out and hitting balls and practicing is one thing but learning how to score, there’s a lot of different areas that you need to be aware of and she’s gotten really good at that.”
Kim-Schaad won two more Met Women’s Amateurs in 2018 and ’19. And she won the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur title last month, defeating Talia Campbell, 3 and 2, on the Meadow Course at Forest Highlands Golf Club in Flagstaff, Ariz.
“It’s been a whirlwind month,” Kim-Schaad said. “I don’t know if it’s fully sunk in yet. Ask me in a year.”
She’s looking forward to her exemption into next year’s U.S. Women’s Open at Champions Golf Club in Houston and U.S. Women’s Amateur at Woodmont Golf Club in Rockville, Md. And she plans to defend her Women’s Mid-Amateur title at Berkeley Hall Club in Bluffton, S.C.
“It will just be another amazing experience with friends and family and bringing everyone together,” she said. “It’s just very cool, you know. Little old me never expected any of this.”
Ina Kim-Schaad will compete in Stage II of the LPGA Q-School starting Oct. 14. Photo: Darren Carroll, Copyright USGA
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