Jackie Stoelting, the former Jackie Barenborg, has made the most of her “big break” and will be one of the key players to watch at this weekend’s Symetra Tour SEFCU Championship.
The popular event on the “Road to the LPGA Tour” will be played today through Sunday at Capital Hills at Albany. This will be the 14th tournament on the 20-week schedule, and there will be a $100,000 total prize fund, including $15,000 for first and $9,392 for second.
For Stoelting, the daughter of Niskayuna native Ed Baronborg, those numbers probably don’t mean as much as they used to. She earned about $100,000 in money, merchandise and travel for winning the Golf Channel’s “Big Break Florida” reality series last fall, although that event wasn’t televised until this spring. She had to keep her secret for several months.
“My husband and I have joked several times that even in my hometown [Vero Beach, Fla.], which isn’t the biggest place in the world, we’ve been to several different stores and restaurants, and people have come up to me to say hello. I have no clue who they are,” said Stoelting. “A year ago, nobody knew who I was. Now, it’s totally different.”
The financial gain from the “Big Break” affected Stoelting in several ways.
“Probably the biggest thing for me is that I always had to work in the offseason. I couldn’t afford to play without having a job. Now, I know I’ll be financially OK, and that’s a huge difference,” she said.
“A lot of the girls have spent their offseason working on their games, and now I can do the same thing. In the past, I think the biggest struggles I had were financial, and not being able to play freely. I knew I had to make the cut in order to play the next week.”
Stoelting also gained confidence, knowing she can make the big putt or the key shot when under pressure.
“Obviously, winning the [“Big Break”] show proves I’m doing something right with my game,” she said. “It wasn’t a tournament, but a win is a win.
“I think my physical game is pretty much what it was before, but my mental game has shown the biggest improvement. I’ve come close to winning out here, but I just haven’t put it together yet. Now, I’m more consistent, and I really believe I will eventually get to the LPGA Tour.”
Stoelting has four top-10 finishes this season and has earned $33,646 on the Symetra Tour. Over her Symetra Tour career, she has 15 top-10 finishes and has won $97,467, still slightly less than she picked up from the “Big Break Florida” experience.
Stoelting is sixth on this year’s money list, and this will be her 75th career Symetra Tour event.
“I’m excited to be playing in Albany,” she said. “I have a sponsor from Albany that has sponsored me for this event the last four years, and I get to see my family here. I’m very excited.”
There will be 143 other players in the field, including defending champion Wei-Ling Hsu, who is currently fourth on the Volvik Race for the Card money list.
Native New Yorkers in the field include Megan Grehan (Mamoroneck), Nannette Hill (Pelhlam Manor), Caroline Powers (Troy) and Kelly Shon (Port Washington). Also in the field will be 2001 Capital Region Futures Classic champion Angela Buzminski, who won the area stop at Western Turnpike. The 43-year-old Buzminski has played on the Symetra Tour for parts of 17 years since 1995, finishing second on the money list in 2001 and seventh in 2009.