As a sixth grader, Cydney Clanton had just one goal – to become the best professional golfer she could be.
As she has progressed through success on the junior, amateur and college tours, the drive Clanton showed as a teenager has become even more important now that she’s competing on pro tours.
“I always had a good work ethic,” Clanton, a Concord native, said Tuesday during a break in practice for the Symetra Classic, this week’s LPGA Symetra Tour event at Raintree Country Club.
“Some people can get away with not practicing as much because of their natural abilities, but the best players are the ones that practice the most.”
Clanton, who turned pro in June 2011 after graduating from Auburn, is one of 144 players entered in the Symetra Classic, which begins Thursday and runs through Saturday. She is 15th on the tour’s money list and comes into the tournament after tying for third place in the season-opening event in Mesa, Ariz.
“I’d like to say my chances here are good,” she said. “But it’s always one shot at a time, and one hole at a time. That’s how I’m looking at things this week.”
Clanton, who lives in Kannapolis, took up golf while she was in middle school and found that the sport challenged her in ways others hadn’t.
“All the other sports seemed to come pretty easy, but golf was a sport I definitely had to work at,” she said. “I knew that golf could take me the furthest, and I needed to buckle down and do what I needed to do to become the best at it.”
That work ethic drove Clanton to golf success in high school (an individual state championship in 2005), as an amateur (winning the North and South Amateur in 2010) and in college (named the national freshman of the year in 2008, and earning All-America honors three times).
After turning pro, Clanton made the cut in six of eight Symetra Tour events in 2011, then earned her LPGA Tour card with a top-10 finish in the final qualifying tournament.
Her first year on the LPGA Tour in 2012 provided her biggest learning experience yet.
Clanton played in 15 LPGA events but only made the cut in four. Her best finish was a tie for 19th in the Australian Open in February 2012 – ironically, the first time she made the cut for an LPGA event.
“I hit a lull, a rough patch where mentally I just was not there,” she said. “I did a lot of things that were among the goals I wanted to meet, but I did not play at all the way I wanted to play.
“It was a disappointing year, but it was a year I can definitely learn something from.”
That’s why she is back on the Symetra Tour, playing the full 15-tournament schedule along with a handful of LPGA events she can enter under her conditional status.
The goal: Get her LPGA Tour card back. A top-10 finish in the Symetra Tour’s earnings list would put the card back in her hands for next year.
First, though, is getting through this week’s Symetra Classic.
“You always have to look at things one shot at a time,” Clanton said. “You get in trouble if you start getting ahead of yourself. Obviously, you have the ultimate goal, but that comes with completing the small goals.”
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