Maria Torres has earned her ticket… And, she’s made it into the history books in the process.
The 22-year-old Puerto Rican golfer earned a full tour card for next season at this past week’s the LPGA Tour qualifying tournament in Daytona Beach, Florida.
The final qualifier took place over the course of five days, and the top 20 finishers in the field of 165 players earned full cards.
Torres, an amateur, clinched the final spot by winning a three-hole, aggregate stroke-play playoff.
Torres, a recent graduate of the University of Florida, becomes the first player from Puerto Rico to earn full status on the LPGA.
“It’s so amazing. It’s all still sinking in, like, holy moly, this is crazy! But it’s so exciting,” says Torres in an interview with ESPNw. “I worked so hard, and I’ve been dreaming of this since I was little, and now I’m a professional on the LPGA. It’s just amazing [laughs] and I’m kind of speechless when I talk about it. But I’m excited to go back to Gainesville and see my teammates and then go home and see my family and share this excitement with them.
Torres, who was in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria struck and witnessed the storm’s aftermath before leaving her family behind, had to mentally prepare for qualifying tournament.
“It was really sad, but when I was talking to my parents, they said, ‘You have to leave, and you have focus on Q-school,’” says Torres. “They encouraged me to keep practicing and to stay focused on the end goal. It was still sad to see because you want to help in whatever [way] you can, but this has helped me appreciate what I have, and the support I have, and everything else. I’m not taking this moment for granted at all.”
Torres now hopes her participation in the LPGA Tour will inspire more Puerto Ricans to go after their dreams.
“By teaching kids that if you work hard, anything is possible. It’s not just about golf. I want them to believe in their dreams and go after what they want,” says Torres. “But I would love to see golf become more popular.”