Just 15 years old but already a tournament veteran, New Albany sophomore Mia Hammond needed virtually no time to decide whether she considers her first LPGA event a breakthrough or a milestone.
“I feel like it’s definitely a milestone,” Hammond said of qualifying for the Dana Open this week in suburban Toledo, Ohio. “It was very exciting when it was finalized. It was a relief as well. I put in a lot of work this summer and to see it pay off is really great.”
Coming off a freshman year in which she tied for fourth in the Division I state tournament and had a 69.3 stroke average, Hammond took another step toward her ultimate career goal Monday by shooting a 5-under 66 to win the Dana Open qualifier at Stony Oak Country Club in Holland, a suburb of Toledo.
Former Ohio State golfer Lauren Peter carded a 67 and grabbed the other qualifying spot for the tournament, which begins Thursday at Highland Meadows in nearby Sylvania.
Like Hammond, who is the only amateur in the field, Peter is making her LPGA debut.
Hammond parred her first five holes and six of the first seven and finished with six birdies. “A few” of those came on putts of approximately 20 feet, she said.
Her first birdie came at No. 6, a par-5 on which she reached the green in two shots.
“After that, putts just started falling,” she said. “I got confident over the putter and the rest of the round, I did what I had to do. After my second birdie (on No. 8), I knew I was where I needed to be. …
“My iron game is the best part of my game, so I had a lot of shots inside of 15 feet where I had a good line on the putts and was able to get them in the hole.”
Still, Hammond — who shot a 3-over 75 in last year’s qualifier and fell three shots short of making the field — had to wait about 45 minutes to see whether she secured the win. Twenty-seven hopefuls golfed Monday.
“I can’t say you ever expect to shoot a score like that, but she’s always been capable,” said her father, Tom, who is her coach as well as caddy when the event allows. “The only thing you can be is proud. This is such a great learning experience for her and a light into what we might see in the future. She wants to make a career of golf, so hopefully this is a step in the right direction. I am just elated for her, proud of her and excited for her at the same time.”
Mia Hammond’s best 18-hole round is 65, set two years ago during a tournament in North Carolina.
She won the girls 14-15 division of the 2022 Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals in Augusta, Georgia, in April 2022 and in her first high school season won the Division I district tournament and helped lead New Albany to third place at state.
Tuesday and Wednesday featured practice rounds at Highland Meadows, a course Hammond had played once entering this week. She shot a medalist round of 68 last September during Toledo St. Ursula’s Arrow Invitational, but for that tournament, the course was roughly 5,200 yards.
In the Dana Open, it will play at 6,555 yards, according to the LPGA.
“Putting is going to determine how I play this week,” Hammond said. “If I get a few to fall, it will be a really great week.
“And (then there is) just taking it all in. It will be a memory that will last forever.”