Pauline Roussin-Bouchard is big on trial runs. When she played the Augusta National Women’s Amateur last spring, the Frenchwoman showed up with Sebastian Clement, a professional caddie on the European Tour, on her bag and with a specific goal in mind for their work together.
Roussin-Bouchard said she likes to be alone on the course, but as she made the transition to professional golf, needed to get better with a voice in her ear. Clement’s has been a good one.
“The biggest part I needed to improve was working with someone on my bag,” she said that week, and he has remained by her side.
Now Roussin-Bouchard has fully transitioned, having dropped her amateur status last week as she teed it up at the Symetra Tour’s Four Winds Invitational at South Bend (Indiana) Country Club. She finished fourth, banking $9,906 in her professional debut.
The former South Carolina standout made all her own travel arrangements for the Four Winds, which is a big change from college (“It’s just playing with the team and everything is already settled and you don’t have to worry about anything,” she noted) and from competing in Europe.
“This was really my first time on my own, taking care of the flight, taking care of the rental car, because I didn’t have one at first, and just see how the girls are playing, how is the atmosphere and how I like to be organized,” she said.
Call it a fact-finding mission – and one that she plans to continue in the initial months of her professional career.
Roussin-Bouchard now has her sights set firmly on the LPGA. After the tour canceled Q-School in 2020 – effectively freezing status in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – the first stage of 2021 Q-School kicked off Thursday at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, and Shadow Ridge Golf Club in Palm Desert, California, featuring a 340-woman field. That included more than 80 amateurs.
Roussin-Bouchard, however, was one of a handful of players who gained an exemption straight to the second stage of LPGA Q-School because of her season-ending top-5 position in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. She landed fifth after a sophomore season in which she won four times individually, including at the SEC Championship.
Pauline Roussin-Bouchard tied for third at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. (Michael Holahan/Augusta Chronicle)
Stanford’s Rachel Heck (the reigning NCAA champion), Arizona State’s Linn Grant, LSU’s Ingrid Lindblad and Florida State’s Beatrice Wallin also earned a pass to Stage II through that category. Add incoming Stanford freshman Rose Zhang, the top-ranked player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, and Oklahoma State’s Maja Stark to the exempt list because of their position in the top 5 in the WAGR.
Only Grant, Stark and Wallin filed Q-School applications, however, and thus appear in the second-stage field.
Roussin-Bouchard was a former world No. 1 amateur, having spent 34 weeks atop the ranking from January to August 2020. Her amateur swan song came at the European Ladies’ Team Championship earlier this summer at Royal County Down in Northern Ireland, with the French National Team.
She secured a sponsor exemption into the Amundi Evian Championship, an LPGA major, through acquaintances connected with the tournament.
“They just surprised me with the invite, to be honest,” she said, explaining she needed to remain an amateur to compete that week. She remained amateur, too, through the Q-School entry deadline of Aug. 9 to stay in the amateur rankings and be sure she got her exemption.
Roussin-Bouchard finished T-38 at the Evian (which could have netted her $21,890 had she been a pro).
The second stage of LPGA Q-School will be played at Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice, Florida, and begins Oct. 21. Even though she won’t compete for the Gamecocks this fall, Roussin-Bouchard will still return to her old apartment in Columbia, South Carolina, attend in-person classes toward a psychology degree and continue to practice. She also plans quick trips back to Europe to play the Didriksons Skafto Open next week and the Lacoste French Open next month. Both are Ladies European Tour events.
Initially, Roussin-Bouchard had promised South Carolina head coach Kalen Anderson that she’d return to school.
“I didn’t want her to be in any kind of bad situation, having to recruit someone at the very last minute and all that so the plan was to come back and then I just talked with her a little bit,” she said. “She asked me why aren’t you turning pro? I want what’s best for you.”
Truly, it felt like the right time.
“If I can’t get invites on the LPGA or Symetra I’m going to definitely find something elsewhere, either mini tour or LET or LET Access,” Roussin-Bouchard said. “Anything that can keep me playing to be honest.”
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