That’s the last time Sarah Jane Smith took on the roller coaster journey that is Q-Series, then aptly named the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament. In 2007, Smith tied for 20th to regain non-exempt status for 2008. Since then, the 37-year-old has earned 24 top-15 finishes, including nine top-10 finishes. This past season, Smith’s best result was a tie for 34th at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, one of five times she saw the weekend in 18 starts.
“I had had a rough year and it was from probably July onwards it was in the back of my mind. If I don't start playing better, I'm going to be back at Q-School,” said Smith. “I feel like it was always over my head, and then once Tampa was finished it was like this is what we're doing. There are no ifs, ands or buts. I'm going to Q-School. Let's get ready.”
After four rounds in Mobile at Magnolia Grove, Smith posted 70-73-67-70, easily securing her spot into the second week of Q-Series in Dothan at -6, sitting in a tie for 24th. A lot has changed since her last qualifying appearance, the most obvious being the youngest addition to her family – Smith’s two-and-a-half-year-old son, Theo. Friends like Azahara Munoz and Pernilla Lindberg had originally offered to watch Theo in Florida while Smith, with husband Duane on the bag, competed in Q-Series. But ultimately, the Smiths made the decision to bring him.
“The sleep I would get from him not being here perhaps just doesn't make up for him being here and being together as a family,” said Smith, who joins Sydnee Michaels as the only other mother in the field. Joy Dods, who works with the Smuckers LPGA Child Development Center on Tour, is along for the ride with Theo as a helpful hand to the Smiths as Sarah Jane and Duane focus on the grind. “Theo absolutely adores her,” she said. “I think we're having two stressful weeks and he's having the best two weeks of his life. He's got Joy all to himself. They're doing arts and crafts. He's loving it.”
Smith has history on the Robert Jones Golf Trail, with two T-6 finishes at the 2008 and 2012 Navistar LPGA Classic at Capitol Hill’s Senator course. She’s channeling that experience into what she hopes is a memorable final week of her 2021 season. “There has been a lot that had happened, and I wouldn't change any of it for anything,” said Smith. “So we're here, and we're just going to make the most of being here.”