Gabriella Then secured her first Epson Tour victory at the Garden City Charity Classic with a 5-under 67 in the final round. Her 27-foot eagle putt on the par-5 16th sealed the two-shot win as the University of Southern California alumna finished 12-under par at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course in Garden City, Kan.
She becomes the third straight first-time winner of the 2022 Epson Tour season.
“I can’t believe it happened. After doing this since 2017, I’ve been through so much and never imagined I would win an Epson Tour event one day,” said Then. “The feeling is amazing.”
A birdie on No. 1 helped Then start on the right foot. She recorded four birdies in her first 10 holes for a four-shot advantage at the time.
“It was awesome to open the day with a birdie and it really helped my momentum,” Then said. “Just like the second round, I tried to stay patient and wait for birdie opportunities, then capitalize when I could. I was really confident with my putting.”
Alexa Pano kept things interesting on the back nine. She converted birdies at Nos. 12, 13 and 16 to trim Then’s lead to one before the eagle by Then closed the door.
“I didn’t know that she had done that, but they moved the tees up and it was reachable. I thought it’s an open shot and should go for it,” said Then. “I hit a great approach and had a slick downhill putt for eagle, coming in really hot. I’m glad it hit the pin and went in.”
Pano carded a final-round 67 and ultimately finished runner-up at 10-under par in her second start as a pro.
“I’m pretty satisfied with how I played. Wish I could have got it done, but it’s ok. I felt comfortable with the course and had a really good feeling waking up this morning,” Pano said. “This is good momentum. If I have a lot more events like this, it’ll be a good season.”
An Epson Tour rookie in 2017, this moment for Then has been a long time in the making but it’s one that was bolstered in 2021 by her reinvigorated dedication to the game.
“This journey started last year when I played on the Women’s All Pro Tour,” said Then. “It boosted my confidence and provided experience of tournament golf again, since I had not played competitively for a while. When I won Q-School on the LET [in December], that also helped. It has all been the process of my game coming together.”
Yan Liu signed for a bogey-free, 2-under 70 on Sunday to finish in third place at 8-under, while Teresa Toscano (68) and Jillian Hollis (70) rounded out the top five at -7 overall.
Alexa Pano (-10, 2nd) on her finish at the Garden City Charity Classic:
“I felt like I had a ton of opportunities today, so I was just trying to capitalize on all the ones I could. I did think scores would be pretty low. My goal at the beginning of the week was three 69s and today was 68, but once I made birdie on No. 13 I thought, ‘I can do one better, let’s get to 10-under.’ Now will try and keep this momentum going.”
Haley Moore (-4, T9) on her bogey-free, 4-under 68 in the final round:
“The whole week, patience was the key. We had really tough conditions on day one and day two. Today had the best conditions and you could capitalize. I hit the ball off the tee the best today and putting was a lot better. I take a lot going into these next two weeks off then into the events in Florida. My game is headed in a great direction. Excited to work on some things and tee it up again soon.”
Julienne Soo (-3, T13) on the week at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course in Garden City:
“I liked the challenge of playing in the wind. It helps me keep a good attitude about things and coming to a course I enjoy playing always helps. Moving forward, I would like to work on mentally staying in the moment, as well as taking some time to kick back and relax.”