Brooke Pancake drove to Daytona Beach, Fla., over the weekend with a specific purpose.
She wants a job.
But Pancake, who grew up in Chattanooga, doesn't want just any job. She wants a high-level golf job -- playing on the LPGA Tour starting next year.
Pancake can accomplish that goal by finishing in the top 40 in the six-day qualifying tournament that begins today at the LPGA International Champion and Legends courses.
"The goal for the week is to win," said Pancake, who won four straight state medalist championships while playing for Baylor School. "Winning would make it a lot easier."
Pancake breezed through the first of three stages by tying for third on the same courses she'll play for the next week. She tied for 20th during the second stage.
Reaching the final tournament guarantees Pancake a 2013 spot on the Symetra Tour, the women's equivalent of the Web.com Tour.
But that's not enough for the three-time All-American at Alabama who won the Honda Sports Award as the nation's top female golfer and was one of 12 finalists for NCAA Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year for 2011-12.
"This is the biggest dream I've had," Pancake said on her drive to Florida. "There's some anticipation and you don't want it to slip away. I have faith. I do have a job next year. But I want to be on the LPGA Tour."
Academics alone -- even though she graduated with a 4.0 grade point average -- doesn't get a golfer on three All-America teams, into the U.S. Women's Open or on the Curtis Cup team. Those accomplishments helped her sign with Sterling Sports Management, one of the premier LPGA player agencies.
Pancake admitted that she'll have to overcome some nerves and a few of the differences between playing college golf and professional golf, as she did this summer.
"Q-School is like a different feeling of nerves that I haven't had before," Pancake said. "I was nervous on the first tee of the U.S. Open. The first tee of the Curtis Cup was when I was most nervous."
Pancake will have a high school friend and fellow professional golfer as her caddie this week. Former Soddy-Daisy High and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga standout Derek Rende caddied for her in the last round of the second stage because he missed his shot at advancing through PGA Tour Q-School.
"It's awesome to have somebody on the bag who can keep you grounded and keep the nerves down," Pancake said. "It will be a long, brutal week."
All 122 contestants will play two rounds on each course. Then a cut will be made to the low 72 scores and ties. The final round will be played on the Champion Course.
"You have to have a lot of self-confidence for this week, and I have it," said Pancake, who competed in the Callaway Pebble Beach Invitational that combines players from the major American tours, PGA included. "I've felt ready for this.
"But you can never be fully ready for what you're about to embrace."
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...