— The Epson Tour annually awards LPGA Tour membership to the top players on the Volvik Race for the Card money list and the conclusion of the Epson Tour Championship ushers in the 2020 graduating class.
From 1999-2002, the official qualifying tour of the LPGA handed out three cards. Then from 2003-2007, that number increased to five before 10 were distributed starting in 2008. Five cards have been awarded this year based on the number of events on the restructured schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the inaugural year, 162 players have graduated to the big stage including the top five this season. The group also earns exemption into the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open contested at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas from Dec. 10-13.
Meet the 2020 Epson Tour graduates!
(Portoroz, Slovenia) - $49,081
Thanks to zero missed cuts across nine starts including a win at the Carolina Golf Classic presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, Ana Belac collects Epson Tour Player of the Year honors. She made her professional debut at the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship in July and played well beyond her years as a 2020 “Road to the LPGA” rookie, joining the Tour after her senior season at Duke University was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Belac led the Epson Tour in birdies (111) and sub-par holes (113). She also made her LPGA Tour debut as a professional at the Marathon LPGA Classic presented by Dana in August with rounds of 69-75.
“There has been so much to 2020 that seems nearly unbelievable, but with all the hard work I have put in, this is a reality; it’s a dream come true. I’m so excited for the opportunity to begin my career on the LPGA Tour next year and compete in the U.S. Women’s Open Championship next month. When I started my professional journey in March after my senior season at Duke [University] was cut short because of [the] COVID-19 [pandemic], my goal was to be in this spot at this moment. It’s such an amazing feeling to accomplish this feat in my first year on Tour.”
(Santiago de Compostela, Spain) - $48,069
In her third year on the Epson Tour, Fatima Fernandez Cano found her breakthrough moment at the IOA Championship presented by Morongo Casino Resort & Spa where she captured her first win on the “Road to the LPGA.” Despite testing positive for coronavirus twice and being forced to miss two events (FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship and Epson Tour Championship), Fernandez Cano worked her way into the top five courtesy of six top-15 performances across eight starts.
Her consistency shined across several statistical categories, as Fernandez Cano led the Epson Tour this year in par-4 scoring average (3.996) and par-5 scoring average (4.613), while finishing second in scoring average (70.880).
“This season has been a whirlwind, to say the least. I’m so thankful for all the Epson Tour did to find a way to have us compete in as safe a manner as possible and extra thankful to achieve what I’ve worked so hard for over the years. There was quite a mountain of adversity to overcome, but with the support from my sisters on Tour, staff, medical personnel, family and friends, I am a Epson Tour graduate and I get to play in the U.S. Women’s Open. To say I’m excited would be an understatement; I am thrilled for this next stage of my professional career and just thinking about competing on the LPGA Tour brings out all the emotions.”
(Clark, South Dakota) - $44,459
In September, Kim Kaufman captured her third career Epson Tour title at the Four Winds Invitational. It is a large reason why she finds herself among this group. The six-year LPGA Tour veteran quickly made her presence known on the “Road to the LPGA” in 2020 with two top-10s in the first three tournaments. Kaufman missed only two cuts in 10 starts with a total of six top-20 performances.
A graduate of Texas Tech University, Kaufman has made 157 career starts on the LPGA Tour with 12 top-10 results and a career-best of tied for second at 2015 Blue Bay LPGA. Kaufman was also a two-time Epson Tour champion in 2013, winning the Island Resort Championship and the Volvik Championship.
“Spending seven years on the LPGA Tour, this season has been a tremendous learning experience and I couldn’t be more grateful. I was able to travel the country extensively with my husband (and caddie) Johan [Wolkesson], gained an even stronger appreciation for the game, developed new friendships and worked my game back to form. It’s a great feeling and I could not have done it without family, friends and my team including Choice Bank and Sanford Health. I am greatly looking forward to competing in the U.S. Women’s Open in my [now] home state of Texas in December. It will be good to be home.”
(Fiskebackskil, Sweden) - $42,057
A Epson Tour rookie, Frida Kinhult became a first-time winner at the Epson Tour Championship. She captured four top-15 results across eight starts and missed just one cut on the season. Kinhult made her professional debut at the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic in March.
During her year and a half at Florida State University, Kinhult was a three-time medalist. As a freshman in 2019, she set the Seminoles single-season scoring average record of 70.66, was a WGCA First Team All-American, shared ACC Player of the Year honors with (now LPGA Tour member) Jennifer Kupcho and secured both ACC and WGCA Freshman of the Year.
“What a surreal feeling, winning my first professional tournament to secure my 2021 LPGA card and join the competition for the U.S. Women’s Open in a few weeks. It’s so much to take in and almost seems too good to be true. When I made the decision to turn pro last December, I always believed I could get to this point. It may have come even faster than I anticipated, but I’ve learned so much during my rookie year on the Epson Tour and feel like I’ve found a good formula for what makes me successful. I really look forward to what is yet to come in this journey.”
(Huntsville, Alabama) - $41,723
Her victory to open the season at Florida’s Natural Charity Classic in March really set the tone for Janie Jackson. She captured a solo third result at the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship in July, the first event of the restart following the break from competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic, then battled a left wrist injury down the stretch. Ultimately, a tied for fifth finish in the Epson Tour Championship has her in the Volvik Race for the Card top five.
A University of Alabama alumna, Jackson led the Tour in average driving distance (288.155) this season. She was a three-time Alabama High School Class 6A individual title winner for Huntsville High School and qualified for the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open Championship at Pinehurst No. 2 as an amateur. Now, she’ll compete in the prestigious LPGA Tour major as a 2020 Epson Tour graduate.
“It’s really special to earn LPGA membership for next year and also qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open next month with a good finish at the Epson Tour Championship. The last time I played in the U.S. Open was when I qualified in 2014 as an amateur. I’ve had some good finishes in this event over the years and it’s so cool that now it has an even greater meaning in my career, helping me reach the LPGA for the first time. As a veteran on the Epson Tour, all the years of preparation make this moment extra special.”