By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

MESA, Ariz. -- The long and winding road that has been Samantha Richdale’s professional golf career stopped earlier this month in Arizona, where the Kelowna native made a little Symetra Tour history.

Richdale tied for 12th place at the tour’s Gateway Classic at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa and the $1,624 she earned pushed her into the top spot in Symetra Tour career earnings.

No one has made more on the Symetra Tour -- the official developmental tour of the LPGA Tour -- than the $227,670 Richdale has pocketed since turning pro in 2006.

That stat, however, is something of a double-edged sword. It is great that Richdale has played so well on the Symetra Tour, where she has won four times. But the down side is that she has spent more time there than she’d hoped. She has now played 243 Symetra tour events.

Richdale was surprised to learn she now topped the career money list. “You know, that is not really a stat that I look at,” she said in an interview at Longbow with British Columbia Golf. “I have been out here for a number of years, but I am also proud to be out here. This is a great tour and the competition is getting better and better.

“I still think a win out here is very good success so I am proud of that and proud that I have four wins out here. I haven’t really looked at that career earnings list, but this is a great professional golf tour. If I am successful out here, then I am happy.”

Mind you, Richdale would be happier if she could find a permanent home on the LPGA Tour. She’s had full or partial status there in 2016, 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009, but hasn’t been able to stick. Despite losing her card at the end of last year, Richdale did post a career best LPGA finish when she tied for 14th at the ShopRite LPGA Classic last June.

Image Credit Jurgen Kaminski (JKam Photos)/British Columbia Golf

Samantha Richdale And Her Caddy Eye The Scene In The CP Canadian Women's Open At Vancouver Golf Club In 2015 

She believes she has the game to play full-time on the LPGA Tour. “I think overall, I have continued to improve over the years,” she says. “My swing has gotten better, my course management has gotten better. It comes down to basically better managing the small things.” 

Richdale, a former B.C. Women’s Amateur champion who graduated from Illinois State University in 2006 with a chemistry degree, said she still loves the vagabond lifestyle of a touring pro. “There have been a lot of really great times and great experiences, some tough times, but overall I have got to meet a large amount of really great people,” she says. “I've got to travel to a lot of really cool places.”

Richdale hasn’t quite ticked off all of the 50 states. But other than Alaska, she figures she's played or driven through most of the others. 

The purses on the Symetra Tour are not huge, ranging between $100,000 and $200,000. To save money many players stay each week with billets on the road.  “I've made some really great friends that way and for me being from Canada and to have kind of like little families here and there that I can stay with really means a lot because I don’t have any relatives or anything like that in the States.”

The Symetra Tour, which was called the Duramed Futures Tour when Richdale joined it back in 2006, has improved over the years. Richdale says it’s now a much deeper tour and the gap between it and the LPGA Tour not as wide as it once was.

“It has improved a ton,” she says. “We have so many more tournaments, our purses are bigger, we play a lot of really great golf courses. The tour has done a great job with that, in making it a lot more like what you find out on the LPGA tour. It has definitely improved for the better.”

The top 10 on the money list at season’s end earn full exemptions on the 2018 LPGA Tour. Through her first four events this year, Richdale stands 17th. She turns 33 next month and realizes the clock is ticking on her pro career. She acknowledges having moments where she has contemplated doing something else with her life, but she is not ready to give up.

“Sure, there is always a decision as to if you want to do something else,” she says. “But I always felt that I haven’t yet played to my potential and I am stubborn, so until I get there I think I will probably keep trying and trying.”

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