“Earning this Tour card means a lot, especially on the number one our in the world. To be the first to finish makes me even prouder. And also to be the second Korean winner in a row,” said Ryu, who shot in the 60s for six of the eight rounds over the last two weeks. “I didn’t think that I could earn the LPGA Tour card so soon. It’s still unreal to me that I could play on the LPGA Tour.”
The 21-year-old held a two-stroke lead after round seven, which sparked some nerves at the beginning of the final day. However, Ryu thinks the overall experience helped her grow as a player and the five-time KLPGA winner is excited to be a rookie once again. “It hasn’t been that long ago since I was a rookie on the KLPGA, so to be a rookie once again feels new,” said Ryu. “I think with more time it would feel more real, and I look forward to playing with some of the best players in the world.”
For Bailey Tardy, LPGA Q-Series was the last place she wanted to be. After being just shy of an LPGA Tour card for three straight years on the Epson Tour, she was done with the heartbreak. Despite four top-10 finishes on the Epson Tour in 2022 – three of which happened consecutively to end the season – the former Georgia Bulldog finished No. 11 on the Official Money List, just $2,303 from avoiding LPGA Q-Series and earning automatic LPGA Tour Membership. The Georgia native didn’t originally sign up for the two-week tournament and made a last-minute decision to do so after her coach told her not to give up. Thankfully she listened, hung on to make the cut after week one and played lights out on Sunday, firing a bogey-free, -7 final round to earn her card.
“I didn’t want to come to Q-School at all. Even at the beginning of the year, I told everyone, I’m not going to Q-School. I’m not doing it. That’s not what I want to do. And I’m so happy I did,” said Tardy.
“I’m ecstatic. Just a lot of hard work and it all paid off the last two weeks. I don’t know, it’s kind of surreal right now. I think it’ll hit me a little bit later. But I can finally say I’m an LPGA (Tour) member.”
Behind Ryu and Tardy, in a share of third, are Colombia’s Valery Plata and Germany’s Aline Krauter at -25. The duo spent time near the top of the leaderboard throughout the week and had some comfort knowing they didn’t have to shoot lights-out for on Sunday in Dothan, Ala. Plata, who turned professional in November after LPGA Qualifying Tournament Stage II in order to compete this week, felt the nerves coming down the stretch, and her scorecard reflected that stress as she made three bogeys in her final nine. Luckily, the 21-year-old had already made five birdies early in the round, ultimately signing for a 3-under, 69. Plata said that she was leaning on the support and wisdom of a friend to finish her round strong.
“One of my really good friends texted me today. She was like, enjoy the walk today, and that’s kind of my thought when I started playing,” said Plata, who only shot one round in the 70s during Q-Series. “I said, all right I’m just going to enjoy this. That’s almost the only thing I have left to do, so that’s what I was trying to do.”
The Michigan State University Spartan says she’s a slow processor when it comes to these monumental moments, which will help her focus on her next big event – college finals. After a long two weeks on the golf course, Plata will try to pass her finals next week and then celebrate moving onto the LPGA Tour.
Krauter called her 2-under, 70, final round a rollercoaster ride but leaned on her 10-under, 62 in round five – the round of the week and the first round of 62 or better shot in LPGA Qualifying since 2013 – to get her across the finish line. Now that she’s got her LPGA Tour card in hand, the former University of Sanford Cardinal can breathe and celebrate. “Finishing top of most of the leaderboards at all of the Q-Schools, all of the stages, yeah, I couldn’t have asked for more,” she said. “It means the world. That’s been the goal for the past couple years I would say. Here I am, so I’m really excited to get the season started.”
Rounding out the top 5 was Japan’s Minami Katsu. Like Tardy, the 24-year-old went bogey-free, signing for a 6-under, 66. Katsu already has a home on the JLPGA Tour next season, allowing her to keep the pressure to a minimum which ultimately helped her in earning an LPGA Tour card. Katsu feels like she has a lot of positive takeaways from the past two weeks, with the only negative being the lack of a hairdryer at her Airbnb. Joining Katsu on the LPGA Tour next year as a rookie is Yuna Nishimura, who finished in a tie for 24th at -15.
At the end of the week, 46 players from 21 different countries took home LPGA Tour status, including Ines Laklalech, who is the first LPGA Tour Member from Morocco as well as North Africa and the Arab region. Including the 2022 Epson Tour graduates, a total of 31 players, should they accept Membership, will make their debut as LPGA Tour rookies in 2023.