They will make their livings next year as full-fledged members of the LPGA Tour. But this season’s Epson Tour graduates, the 10 women who battled from March through October to earn their cards, have a lot more in common than the places they’ll play in 2022.
Most of them have a shared history that includes being brought to the game by a family member, a father, a grandmother, an aunt or uncle, someone who felt compelled to hand a girl a golf club and hope for the best. From there, they found a spark, a drive that made them come back to golf a second time and then a third. For four of this year's graduates, that spark began with a teacher at an LPGA*USGA Girls Golf program.
“I got started in Girls Golf at the age of six,” said Sophia Schubert, who captured the 2021 Carolina Golf Classic presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and finished fourth in the Race for the Card. “My favorite memories were going with Girls Golf to the Nancy Lopez Chick-fil-A Charity Challenge and going to the monthly meetings with my friends. Girls Golf kept me interested and engaged at an early age so that I could continue my journey from middle school to high school to AJGA, which in turn prepared me for college and professional golf.”
The same was true for Amanda Doherty, who discovered her love for the game at LPGA*USGA Girls Golf events near her Georgia home.
“My parents started me playing golf when I was really young, but I played many other sports growing up as well,” said Doherty, who finished eighth in the Race for the Card. “I participated in the Girls Golf program for a few years at Country Club of Roswell starting at around age 11. The reason my parents chose to join CCR was because of the junior program and particularly the Girls Golf program. They knew it would be a good place for me to learn and have other girls my age to play golf with.
“My favorite memory was the ‘Bring a Friend’ day. I think that is an amazing way to get more young girls involved in the sport.”
Allison Emrey, winner of the 2021 IOA Golf Classic and the No. 8 player in the Race for the Card, said, “The progression from Girls Golf to LPGA means so much to me. It has not always been easy. I have worked really hard to get where I am. I have never been a player who progresses quickly, so to have stuck with it makes it feel even better.
“Growing up I was always the only girl in all the tournaments I played in. I remember going to my first Peggy Kirk Bell tournament and being amazed at how many other girls there were around the state and country. It was an eye-opening experience and is what kept me playing golf. All my best friends would be at the tournaments and we would go out to dinner after our rounds and have a great time.
“My journey has been tough at times. But I always try to think back about why I love golf when times get tough. A huge majority of that is the memories I have made come from playing in PKB tournaments. Now, I hope to show young girls that if you dream big and commit to your goals, they will come true. It might not be easy and will come later than you think, but if you set your mind to something, anything is possible.”
Some players didn’t have full-fledged LPGA*USGA Girls Golf programs at their disposal. But they found a connection to the game anyway. Rachel Rohanna, the 30-year-old who finished 10th in the Race for the Card, was introduced to the game at a Girls Golf summer camp her grandmother held in Columbiana, Ohio.
“It was always pretty cool to watch my grandma inspire so many young players to get involved,” Rohanna said. “She always made it fun and I think that's why so many of the girls from the camps went on to play golf in high school and college.
“I remember participating in the camp all day and getting hooked. I'd go play my grandparents course afterwards. It was a par-3 course called Whispering Pines. I remember one specific day playing 45 holes after the camp. My grandma did an amazing job keeping the game fun and interesting. My grandfather was my swing coach. The two of them made a great team.”
All those players took different paths to the LPGA Tour. Schubert was a star at the University of Texas and won the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2017. It took her a little longer for her LPGA Tour career to kick off than she’d imagined. But she knows where she wants to go from here.
“Participating in Girls Golf kept me excited and motivated for my future in golf,” Schubert said. “It taught me to never give up and that it’s a process that takes time to develop into the player I am today. I believe my journey on the Epson Tour taught me to be patient and trust the process and has prepared me for the LPGA.
“I hope I can inspire girls through my hard work and dedication to the game. I was inspired by a lot of girls that came before me, so I want to be to the next generation what my golf heroes were to me.”