Stacey Miller wanted to make sure she received her degree in business management. She accomplished that earlier this month with a stellar 3.87 grade-point average.
The next step is graduating to the LPGA Tour.
Miller, the former Central Catholic High School and Illinois State standout, takes the first step toward that goal on the LPGA Futures Tour. Her first tourney starts Friday in the Ladies Titan Tire Challenge in Marion, Iowa. The top 10 on the Futures’ money list at the end of the season automatically earn their 2012 LPGA Tour cards.
“Now that school is done with I can focus on golf and make a big jump in my golf game,” said Miller. “I thought I made a big jump from high school to college, going from three sports to one, and that I can make another leap in my game going from college with class and workouts and golf to now focusing just on golf.”
Miller qualified for the Futures Tour by tying for 50th place in the LPGA Qualifying School last fall, shooting 9-over-par 297 in Venice, Fla.
Although Miller hasn’t played much competitive golf since then, she doesn’t think she will need a couple of starts to get going.
She served as a student assistant coach with the ISU women’s golf team this past year while finishing up her studies. Plus, Miller played in a 36-hole U.S. Women’s Open qualifier earlier this week at Westmoreland Country Club in Wilmette, shooting 152 to miss advancing by five strokes.
“When I was playing with the ISU girls and they were doing their qualifying rounds I tried to treat that like it was competitive rounds,” she said. “When I practice I try to treat every putt like it counts and stick to my routine so there will be no major jitters.”
Miller will get a heavy dose of Futures Tour golf early. There are five tournaments in June, including the Tate & Lyle Players Championship on June 16-19 at Hickory Point Golf Course in Forsyth that is practically a home tourney for Miller.
“I’ve been working hard to make sure I’m physically and mentally ready and that I just prepare myself so when I go to the first tournament I’m confident and ready to play,” she said.
Miller won four individual titles in her ISU career, including medalist honors in the 2009 Missouri Valley Conference Championships. She was a three-time all-Valley selection and helped the Redbirds to three league titles and three NCAA regional appearances.
“She definitely has all the necessary tools,” said ISU coach Darby Sligh. “Half the battle is length, discipline and ball striking. Patience is a key. It’s a much different lifestyle than college. There are a lot of things she will have to adapt to.”
Miller starts in catch-up mode. She skipped the first four Futures Tour events in order to finish her school work. The No. 10 player on the money list is at $11,241.
If Miller doesn’t make the top 10, which last year was $39,261, she plans to return to LPGA Qualifying School in the fall.
Miller has already lined up a couple of sponsors, although she is looking for more. She has a three-year plan to try and make the LPGA Tour. Miller probably will spend the winters in Arizona with relatives and friends working on her game.
“Starting off I’m worried about getting into my game, making the cut and just playing the best golf I can and wherever the year ends up I can’t control that,” she said.
Miller has already set up a website, www.staceymillergolf.com, to allow her friends and sponsors to track her progress.
“I’ve been reflecting from college and high school the amount of support I received from the community and how much it impacted my game and made a big difference,” she said. “For that I can’t thank the community enough. They’ve been great, positive influences. As I move on I hope it continues as I grow into golf.”
Another former ISU star, Samantha Richdale, played for two years on the Futures Tour before receiving her LPGA Tour card in 2010.