Q-Series is finally here and, in just two weeks, the last 45 LPGA Tour cards for the 2023 season will be given out. Playing alongside the top 50 players that battled each other – and the elements – in Stage II just over a week ago are two additional groups: LPGA Tour pros ranked 101-150 in the Race to the CME Globe and Epson Tour players ranked 11-35 in the Ascensus Race for the Card. A few players who earned the LET Order of Merit and those in the Rolex Top 75 have also entered the field. With golfers from several tours all over the globe, the Q-Series field boasts a ton of talent and varying motivations to keep the competition interesting.
Fighting to Maintain: 101-150 in the Race to the CME Globe
This will be No. 107 Isi Gabsa’s third trip to Q-Series. Though Gabsa first reached the LPGA Tour after finishing ninth in the Ascensus Race for the Card in 2018, she has yet to finish in the top 100 in her LPGA Tour career. Gabsa missed the cut in 2019 but rebounded in 2021, shooting 12-under par and finishing T14 to reclaim her LPGA Tour membership. Additionally, 2022 has been Gabsa’s best year on tour yet. Her 107 ranking with 12 cuts made in 20 events is her highest finish in the Race to CME Globe in four years on tour. Though Gabsa’s experience with the pressure of Q-Series will be helpful, the momentum she will bring to course on Thursday might be the difference maker.
No. 119 Yaeeun Hong joined Gabsa at Q-Series last year, carding a T12 finish to reach the LPGA Tour for the first time in 2022. Hong struggled over the summer in her rookie season, missing seven consecutive cuts before finding her stride in the final events of the season. The Korean carded her first top 10 finish – T10 at 10-under par – in her home country at the BMW Ladies Championship as a sponsor invitee. Having just found her rhythm at the highest level, Hong is sure to put up a good fight at Q-Series to keep her place among the world’s best.
But not all the LPGA players have as much recent experience with Q-Series as Gabsa and Hong. The last time No. 103 Su Oh was in Q-School was in 2015, back when Q-Series was still called ‘Final Stage.’ In fact, this is Oh’s first finish outside the top 100 in the Race to CME Globe in her seven years on tour. The Australian started 2022 strong, shooting a career best 9-under par in the first round of the Honda LPGA Thailand in March and carding a season-best T18 finish at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play presented by MGM Rewards in May. But things quickly took a turn for the worse when Oh missed 11 consecutive cuts before breaking through at the BMW Ladies Championship with a T40 finish. Prior to 2022, Oh managed to keep herself in contention on the LPGA Tour, with four runner-up finishes to her name. Hopefully, she can rediscover the best of her game over the next two weeks to hold onto her LPGA Tour status.
Climbing the Ladder: 11-35 in the Ascensus Race for the Card
Going into the Epson Tour Championship rookie Jaravee Boonchant was ranked No. 36 in the Ascensus Race for the Card, just one spot away from gaining automatic entry into Q-Series. She went on to set an Epson Tour all-time scoring record after shooting a bogey free 23-under par 265. With that remarkable scorecard, the Duke alum earned her first victory on the Epson Tour and jumped to No. 12 in the rankings. Though this week will be Boonchant’s Q-Series debut, such a strong finish to her rookie Epson Tour season bodes well for the 23-year-old from Thailand.
Alexa Pano will also be making her Q-Series debut this week, though she is no stranger to Q-School. Last year, she finished T10 at Stage II but was not allowed to compete in Q-Series because she was too young. Now an 18-year-old, Pano is cleared to compete and has plenty of gas in the tank after a disappointing finish to her Epson Tour season. With five top 10s in 2022, including two runner-up results at the Carolina Golf Classic and Garden City Charity Classic, Pano spent much of her rookie season at No. 10 in the Ascensus Race for the Card but was bumped to No. 13 after the final putt dropped at the Epson Tour Championship. The young American is looking for redemption at Q-Series after narrowly missing her LPGA card a few weeks ago.
An Ongoing Battle: Top 50 and ties from Stage II
While those ranked 101-150 in the Race to CME Globe and 11-35 in the Ascensus Race for the Card will be making their first trip to Q-School this year, much of the field has already been on the grind to qualify for the LPGA Tour. KLPGA player Seulki Lee made her Q-School debut at Stage II where she shot 4-under to become a co-medalist with Becca Huffer. No. 399 in the Rolex Rankings, Lee wasn’t someone to watch going into the week, but she made her presence felt with an early eagle on the final day of competition despite wind and rain that required a weather delay. With such a strong start at Stage II, Lee is certainly someone to look out for over the next two weeks.
Kim Kaufman’s journey back to the LPGA Tour has been a long one and the next two weeks will determine if the 31-year-old is ready to stand amongst the best in the world once again. Kaufman spent six of her nine years as a professional golfer solely on the LPGA Tour before she dropped below the top 100 in the Race to CME Globe in 2019 and returned to Q-Series. Though she managed to maintain her LPGA Tour status, she has played the last three seasons on the Epson Tour. After not making it through Stage II in 2021, Kaufman is back at Q-Series for the fourth time in her career. The golf Kaufman brings with her on Thursday onward will determine whether her long battle back to the height of the game will finally end.