Its been a busy and interesting year in the golfing career of Charlotte teenager Emily Stinson.
Stinson played a major role as Ardrey Kells girls golf team won another state championship, shes been climbing up the states junior golf rankings and even earned a scholarship to play for Appalachian States womens golf team.
And later this week, the 18-year-old Stinson will take a big step forward playing in her first professional-level tournament.
Stinson will begin preparing for her Thursday morning tee time in the opening round of the Symetra Classic, being played at Raintree Country Club.
Stinson, who will graduate from Ardrey Kell next month, was given a sponsors exemption as a amateur for the fourth event on the 2013 Symetra Tour, the LPGAs developmental series that will play 15 tournaments this season.
Its a big step for someone who only took up playing competitive golf five years ago and plays (and plays well) despite having scoliosis, a condition in which a persons spine is curved from side to side.
Im very excited about this, Stinson said. I like to laugh and joke around when Im out playing, but I understand that these girls are very serious. Im going to feel like a little fish in a big ocean, but Im ready for it.
Stinson took up the sport at a young age, whacking golf balls around the course at Cedarwood Country Club with her father Martin. However, she didnt get the competitive itch until she was in the eighth grade.
The first tournament, I played with one other girl and she drove the ball 50 yards past mine, Stinson said. But I shot 99 and I was really excited because that was the first time I had broke 100. That really got me excited.
It was also around that time that Stinson was diagnosed with scoliosis. Because it was caught late, doctors couldnt use a back brace to correct the curvature. Instead, Stinson underwent physical therapy, and still has daily exercises to strengthen her back
Even with some limitations at times, Stinson has to use a hand cart to haul her golf bag around the course during a tournament the condition hasnt affected her play.
As co-captain, Stinson led Ardrey Kells girls team to state 4A team titles in 2010 and 2012, and a career-best individual finish (tied for eighth) in the 2012 championships. Shes also won six junior-level tournaments, including last years Charlotte Metro Juniors, and has climbed to ninth in the Carolinas Golf Associations junior girls rankings.
Shes a fantastic ball striker, is pretty long off the tee and shes worked real hard on her short game, said Molly Tullar, an instructor at the Dana Rader Golf School who works with Stinson on her game. Plus, shes got some smarts around the course. Shes always looking to make smart choices out there.
Shes putting it all together for college, and luckily for the (Symetra Classic) tournament coming to town.
Stinson wont have to worry about hauling around the bag this week Symetra Tour players use caddies but the level of competition will be a few steps up from what shes faced in high school or in junior tournaments.
The other 143 players entered in this weeks Symetra Classic all have one goal win the tournament, pocket the $15,000 winners check and, most important, earn their LPGA Tour card. The top 10 in earnings at the end of the season get automatic exemptions for all LPGA events next year.
Stinsons goal is much simpler make the cut for Saturdays final round.
Ive got nothing to lose, Stinson said. I dont want to go out there and think too much. I just want to go out there and play golf.
Symetra Classic schedule
Monday (admission is free): 7:30 a.m.: Practice rounds.
Tuesday (admission is free): 7:30 a.m.: Practice rounds.
Wednesday (admission is free)
7:30-11 a.m.: Practice rounds.
12 p.m.: Symetra Classic pro-am tournament.
5:30-6:30 p.m.: Daddy-daughter clinic with teaching professional Dana Rader.
5:30-6:30 p.m.: First Tee of Charlotte short-game clinic with Symetra Tour pros.
5:30-6:30 p.m.: Rock the Putt, mini-golf competition between eight local amateurs and eight Symetra Tour players.
Thursday (admission $10 adults, childen under 16 free)
7:30 a.m.: First round tees off.
Friday (admission $10 adults, children under 16 free)
7:30 a.m.: Second round tees off.
Saturday (admission $10 adults, children under 16 free; donation of three non-perishable food items also gains free admission)
7:30 a.m.: Final round tees off.
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