Epson Tour Championship reveals the 10 women’s lives about to change with LPGA Tour card

Epson Tour Championship reveals the 10 women’s lives about to change with LPGA Tour card

The Epson Tour is the official qualifying tour of the LPGA. Similar to the Korn Ferry Tour for the PGA Tour, they help women get to the next level.

This season, there is a ‘Race for the Card’ where the top-10 money winners earn LPGA Tour memberships. What started out as three players and then five, since 2008, the top 10 players have advanced to the next level. Over the last 23 years, the Epson Tour has sent 182 players to the LPGA.

Players ranked Nos. 11-35 are awarded an exemption into the LPGA Q-series as the Seiko Epson Corporation will pay their entry fees.

To close out their season, the young women are in Daytona Beach, Fla., for the Epson Tour Championship.

Gabriela Ruffels, Natasha Andrea Oon and Jiwon Jeon are the top three on the ‘Race for the Card’ list and have clinched their LPGA cards. That left seven spots up for grabs on Sunday.

Epson Tour Championship

Auston Kim steamrolled her competition to win her first Epson Tour title and the season finale by two strokes. She went 71-64-65-65 to finish at 23-under. This victory earned her $37,500 which puts her No. 3 on the money list at $119,882, securing her LPGA card.

The former Vanderbilt Commodore was No. 15 coming into this event and now she has full LPGA status for next season.

Minji Kang jumped from No. 7 to No. 5 after a T4 finish. Jeon fell from No. 3 to No. 4 since Kim won. Agathe Laisne missed the cut, but her winnings kept her inside the top 10 at No. 6.

Nine of the 10 women who earned their cards on Sunday recorded over $100,000 in earnings on the season.

Here is the Race to the Card top 10 and their earnings:

  1. Gabriela Ruffels ($159,926)
  2. Natasha Andrea Oon ($149,670)
  3. Auston Kim ($119,882)
  4. Jiwon Jeon ($115,772)
  5. Minji Kang ($112,342)
  6. Agathe Laisne ($109,060)
  7. Jenny Coleman ($106,137)
  8. Roberta Liti ($103,913)
  9. Isabella Fierro ($103,290)
  10. Kristen Gillman ($95,701)

Growing the Women’s Game

Jody Brothers, the new Epson Tour chief business and operations officer has been on the job since January. Prior to taking this job, Brothers served as the Vice President of Business Development and held various leadership roles during his 16 years with the PGA Tour.

In his first nine months on the job, Brothers has elevated so much with the Epson Tour, including increasing the prize money awarded at certain events.

He has been bullish about the future of the Epson Tour because he is passionate about growing the women’s game.

Whether it’s larger purses or making sure the tour provides a solid proving ground for women trying to play golf for a living, they’re heading in the right direction.

Sunday was the first time he witnessed these young women’s hard work pay off to achieve their dreams. Brothers said that he would be holding back tears as he announced those 10 names, in an exclusive with Playing Through.

“It’s probably the coolest thing I’ve experienced in my nearly 40 years in the golf business,” Brothers said. “To see it culminate over an entire season, to get to know the athletes — I’m proud of them because I see how hard they worked. They achieved a lifelong dream of playing on the LPGA, and for some, it’ll be returning to the LPGA.”

Tuscaloosa News, Epson Tour, Amelia Garvey

Gary Cosby Jr.-Tuscaloosa News / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Epson Tour is one of the only nationwide female developmental tours. There are regional mini-tours, but this tour has the largest impact changing young women’s lives.

“I think it tests them and it gives the athletes an opportunity to make enough money to sustain their progress toward the ultimate goal of playing on the LPGA,” he said. “I think the Epson Tour is a vital step for some athletes to be able to play at the next level.”

He acknowledged that some players come out of college ready for the LPGA, listing Rose Zhang as an example. However, there are far more ladies who need time to adjust to playing at this level. It’s different playing in front of crowds with cameras on them constantly, along with everything else that comes with professional golf.

“We try to simulate the LPGA experience as much as possible and that’s why I think it’s such an important tour,” Brothers said.

The women’s game is moving in the right direction and the Epson Tour has a large hand in that.

Savannah Leigh Richardson is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. You can follow her on Twitter @SportsGirlSL and Instagram @savannah_leigh_sports for more golf coverage. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough too.

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