Galloway Township ---
The road to the LPGA Tour is one full of hiccups and headaches, gut-wrenching twists and turns, and when you least expect it, positivity takes a backseat to reality.
Brittany Benvenuto has seen it all in the 18 months since she earned her LPGA Tour playing privileges.
Like the fact that her first actual LPGA event occured 13 months after qualifying.
The Neshaminy graduate, a two-time captain of the golf team, honed her skills at the University of Arizona before a couple decent years on the Symetra Tour. She became tournament tested as she elevated her game and her mindset. When she earned her playing privileges it was a joyous time.
Soon afterward, back and neck pain sent her scurrying to the sidelines, forcing extensive physical therapy and hard work to get her game back.
Last year she expected to play in 10-12 LPGA events and prove she could play among the world's best female professionals. Instead it was a blur of a comeback story.
This year Benvenuto is playing on a major medical extension and will have the opportunity to play in about 11-12 events. How she plays will determine whether she gets into other events. Strong play will move her up the list and into a few more events, or if she'll have to attempt to Monday qualify for others.
"It's a long, hard road, but I'm optimistic," said Benvenuto on the practice range at Galloway National in preparation for Wednesday's ShopRite LPGA Classic pro-am. "I learn new things every week."
Missing her "rookie" LPGA season was a downer, but in the end it wasn't the worst thing in the world. "I was disappointed at first, you bet, but once the realization is there than I wasn't going to be playing I dedicated myself to getting well."
Benvenuto has played in four events this season, opening with a 72nd place finish at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on rounds of 70-71-75-75---291, earning $2,965. In her next three starts she missed the cut, at Volvik Championship (75-77), Volunteers of America Texas Classic (74-77) and Lotte Championship (75-78).
"I feel my game is good, showing improvement, but I need to get some results," explained Benvenuto, who is in the 144-player field at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club near Atlantic City. "My instructor - Susie Meyers - has been a great help both with my game and with the mental aspects of things. There are a lot of building blocks to tackle."
Her scoring average of 74.70 needs improvement she admits, but it's the little things that really hurt. "You can make a couple good swings, but be facing a difficult up and down for par if that second shot is a little off," said Benvenuto, who is averaging 232 yards a drive, hitting 71 percent of the fairways but only 57 percent of greens in regulation.
"Still, I'm confident that with a little improvement I can do some good things out here."
The transition to an LPGA schedule wasn't as bad as it could have been, with the biggest problem being uncertainty on when she will be playing. At the recent Kingsmill event she move from 8th to 2nd alternate but didn't get into the field. To keep sharp she's played in one Symetra Tour event this season, placing 56th.
"I'm taking things one step at a time, trying to build on my game and improve," said the former Pennsylvania Women's Amateur Champion and the only Bucks County woman to play in an LPGA Tour event. "Positivity is a good thing to have. I love the challenge."
At Seaview, she finds a Donald Ross course where accuracy is at a premium, not distance. That should work in her favor.
"You know the saying, it's greens and fairways," said Benvenuto with a smile.
CHIP SHOTS: Benvenuto will open the ShopRite Classic with a 1:54 tee time Friday...