Golfer Cydney Clanton earns her LPGA tour card

Six months after graduating from college, Cydney Clanton has already gotten the job promotion she's always dreamed of.

Having tied for ninth at the 90-hole Final Qualifying Tournament at Daytona Beach, the 22-year-old Concord native earned her 2012 LPGA Tour card on Dec. 4.

A four-time all-American at Auburn, Clanton will play in her first LPGA tournament in either February or March.

Clanton says she aspired to be a professional golfer since the age of six. She developed her game on the courses of Cabarrus County and at Davidson's River Run Golf Club with pro David Ross.

After a stellar prep career at Concord High, capped by a 2006 state championship, Clanton became the national freshman player of the year at Auburn.

In May, she finished her collegiate run with a bevy of conference and national honors.

From June through September, Clanton got her first taste of professional golf, playing the LPGA Futures Tour, the LPGA's developmental tour.

Used to the more casual agenda of collegiate golf, Clanton purposefully scheduled herself to play in an abbreviated slate of Futures tournaments.

In eight events, Clanton made the cut six times. Her best finish was tying for seventh at both the Tate and Lyles Players Championship in Decatur, IL in June and the Eagle Classic in Richmond, VA in August.

Clanton made over $9,000 on those eight stops but her greatest earnings were the lessons she learned about the pressures and expectations of professional golf.

"I got my feet wet for playing for money," she said. "You'd try to make a putt on the 18th hole and the difference between making it or missing it was $3,000 to $1,000.

"When you can't win the tournaments, it's all about not losing any strokes. One stroke can mean making a cut or not making a cut. That was a good experience, traveling and living the life of a tour player and out of a suit case."

From Illinois, to New Hampshire, to Georgia, Clanton would drive herself from tournament to tournament, often sharing tour-arranged housing with other players. The daughter of Bobby and Jeannie Clanton, who now live in Rockwell, Clanton was accompanied by her mom on tour stops in Virginia and Georgia.

Shooting for women's golf's top level, Clanton played at what is called Q-school at LPGA International's Legends and Champions courses, held on Nov. 30-Dec. 4. At stake were unconditional tour cards for the top 20 competitors out of a 139-player field at the end of five 18-hole rounds.

On the first day, Clanton shot an even par, 72. After shooting a 76 on a windy Day Two, Clanton was a bit frustrated.

She rebounded with a third round 70 by nailing three birdies out of the last five holes. In a repeat of poor blustery weather conditions on Day Four, Clanton fired a 74. After four rounds, Clanton was in the top 20, giving her a shot of confidence going into the final round.

"I didn't sleep much at all the night before," said Clanton. "I knew all week that I'd settle down once I got on the golf course. I was in my environment."

Clanton felt she played a solid round, finishing with a one-under 71. By the end of the day, she felt a sense of relief that she finished tied for ninth with a five-day score of plus three, 363.

An Auburn resident, Clanton will start preparing for the 2012 season which will start either in Australia in February or Arizona in March. She'll spend the early part of the season trying to settle on a caddy.

Clanton will get to compete in tournaments that are categorized as "full-field" tournaments. Those are events that have a limited number of openings. The higher a golfer climbs on the money list, the more tournaments she's able to enter.

Concord's S&D Coffee sponsored Clanton during part of the Futures Tour and Clanton is hoping that she will be able to sign with other sponsors that will help curtail the expenses of traveling on the LPGA Tour.

That will probably come a little easier if she's able to achieve one of her top goals: becoming the tour's rookie of the year.