The last time Yealimi Noh was in a formal school situation was the spring of 2017 as she finished her sophomore year at Carondelet High. For the next two years she was home schooled while spending many hours also learning lessons on the golf course as Noh looked ahead to a full ride scholarship at UCLA to begin this fall.
That plan was scrapped after the Concord golfer’s stunning run of victories in major amateur tournaments in the summer of 2018 and now she’s skipped directly to post-graduate work as she competes beginning this week in the Ladies Professional Golf Association’s Q-School, hoping to qualify for her LPGA tour card.
This week’s Q-School is in Florida on two courses at the Plantation Golf and Country Club over 72 holes with Noh competing against 184 other women golfers from 32 countries and 23 states.
After turning down UCLA in order to pursue her dream of a pro golf career, Noh started this year with no status on a pro tour, but she has risen quickly to show up on the radar of golfers worldwide. The 18-year-old is currently inside the top 400 of the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings at No. 104, which allowed her to bypass Stage I of Q-School and go straight to Stage II this week.
She opened this season competing in two Symetra Tour events as a tournament sponsor exemption and then followed those appearances with a seven-stroke victory on the Women’s All Pro Tour in May at the Bravado Wireless Real Okie Championship.
“The beginning of the year was kind of hard for me, not having anywhere to play and not doing that well in the tournaments I did get into,” said Noh, who made her pro debut at the 2019 Taiwan Women’s Golf Open. “It got better over the summer, once I finally got into a LPGA event. My game was in a good place, felt confident and played well. Every time I got in through a Monday qualifier, just had no expectations for the week because I didn’t have that pressure and was able to play my game comfortably.”
A whirlwind run on the big stage got underway when Noh Monday-qualified for the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic in early July. She ended tied for sixth at 23-under par which included a 32-hole, bogey-free streak.
Her performance at the Cambia Portland Classic after Monday qualifying really turned heads. Noh held the 54-hole advantage by three, but a 1-under par 71 in the final round left her one-shot back of winner Hannah Green. A victory would have given Noh a LPGA Tour card. Instead, she earned the respect of competitors and let the golf world know she’ll be back.
“It sucked to get second, but I got over it and learned,” Noh said. “At first, I told myself it was a learning experience and that one day it would help in the future, even though I was just upset. I’m glad I had that experience. I want to go through Q-School and prove that I can officially make it.”
The three-time American Junior Golf Association champion arrives in Florida fresh off a tied for 12th showing at the Hana Financial Group Championship earlier this month in Korea.
“I feel a lot more confident and the No. 1 player in Korea played, the whole KLPGA is strong,” said Noh. “After a really rough first day [she was tied for 74th at the midway point], being under so much pressure and also my sponsor’s event, it was a crazy week that will help me to play well with expectations. Placing high among all those great players got me ready to just play my game and I know if I do that, I can make it to Q-Series.”
A minimum of the top 30 players and ties this week will advance to LPGA Q-Series for 144 holes from Oct. 23 to Nov. 2 in Pinehurst, N.C. Those at the next score, or scores, will also move on provided the total number of players in Q-Series does not exceed 108, which currently has 60 exempt and entered competitors that are already qualified for Pinehurst.