The first full-field event of the 2024 LPGA Tour season kicks off this week as Bradenton Country Club hosts the LPGA Drive On Championship. In the 120-player field are some of the recent Epson Tour graduates and Epson Tour alumni who are looking to make a name for themselves on the LPGA Tour this year. Here are a few players to keep an eye on at this week’s event.
Roberta Liti entered the 2023 season as a dual member on the LPGA and Epson Tour, but after a few LPGA starts early in the year, Liti decided to instead pursue a top-10 finish in the Epson Tour’s Race for the Card. The Italian began her Epson Tour season hot, posting four top-10 results in her first seven events, three of which saw her finish inside the top four.
The rest of the season was strong from Liti, who added two more top-10 finishes to her 2023 resume, one of which was a runner-up result at the Black Desert Resort Championship presented by Marcella. The 2024 season will be the 28-year-old’s first full year competing on the LPGA Tour but she has played in six LPGA Tour events previously, having yet to make a cut. Liti will look to change that narrative when she tees off Thursday morning at Bradenton Country Club.
Auston Kim enters the LPGA Drive On Championship as a 2024 LPGA Tour rookie and is coming off a win in her final event of the Epson Tour season in October and a start at The ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican in November. Her win at the Epson Tour Championship not only saw Kim earn her first professional victory but also secure a top-10 finish in the Race for the Card to earn her LPGA Tour membership for the first time this season.
The 23-year-old recorded nine more top-10 results throughout the season, making her 10 total top-10 finishes the most on the Epson Tour in 2023. Kim’s consistent play and aggressive mindset make her a player to watch in her first LPGA Tour start since the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open.
Ruffels started the 2023 season with some of the biggest expectations out of everyone on the Epson Tour. She has seen success on the biggest stages at the amateur level, winning the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur and then finishing runner-up in the 2020 U.S. Women’s Amateur to her now LPGA Tour colleague, Rose Zhang. Ruffels played on the Epson Tour in 2022 but was unable to secure a guaranteed LPGA Tour spot after missing the deadline to sign up for 2022 LPGA Q-Series, so she headed back to the Epson Tour for 2023.
Last season is when Ruffels showed she belonged at the highest level of women’s golf, winning three times on LPGA’s Official Qualifying Tour, and making six starts and six cuts on the LPGA Tour. The Australia native has proved she can compete on the LPGA Tour in the past, so do not be surprised if she makes an immediate impact in the 2024 season.
Robyn Choi is a name that a lot of people may not recognize. She did not finish inside the top 10 in the Race for the Card and did not win a tournament on the Epson Tour in 2023. But Choi did make every single cut in every event she played last season and took home medalist honors at 2023 LPGA Q-Series.
Choi made her last start on the LPGA Tour at the 2020 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, where she made the cut and finished T34. The 25-year-old is still searching for her first professional victory, and while it may or may not happen this week, expect to see her name on the right side of the cut line heading into the weekend as she looks to pick up where she left off on the Epson Tour.