Professional golfer, child prodigy, Netflix star: that’s what most people know about 2022 Epson Tour rookie Alexa Pano. The Floridian turned pro at 17 and celebrated her 18th birthday on the road with the LPGA’s Official Qualifying Tour. But by then she was famous. As early as age 12, she was signing autographs and posing for pictures, a situation that rarely ends well for child stars. But even though she is still young, Pano has shown wisdom and maturity beyond her years since teeing it up as a pro.
Five top-10 finishes throughout the season propelled Pano into the coveted top 10 in the Ascensus Race for the Card early. A playoff loss at the Carolina Golf Classic presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina in June rocketed her to a season high No. 2. Unfortunately, the end of the season tested both Pano’s experience and stamina. A T58 performance at the Epson Tour Championship ultimately cost her automatic 2023 LPGA Tour eligibility.
Finishing No. 13 in the Ascensus Race for the Card wasn’t how the rookie wanted to end her season. Rather than walk away from the Epson Tour Championship with an LPGA Tour card, Pano needed to take some much-needed rest and then get back to work. The silver lining in her final ranking was an exemption into Q-Series this week.
“I think I definitely got a little bit tired towards the end of the season,” said Pano. “It was a long stretch, but I was happy to get home and work on some stuff and have some time off before coming here.”
Due to her age – 17 at the time – Pano was not able to compete for an LPGA Tour card at the 2021 LPGA Q-Series, making this her first trip to what was previously known as the final stage. Regardless of the results, Pano wants to have fun and take it all in.
“I think it's important to just enjoy it,” said Pano. “As far as staying positive, I’m just remembering it's going to be a long week or a long two weeks and so much can happen. No matter what, I'm going to end up being able to play golf next year, so I'll have an opportunity no matter what happens.”
In just one year, Pano has already established herself as a player to watch on the Official Qualifying Tour of the LPGA, the Epson Tour. The 21-event season can be a grind. All players get lonely and bored at various times throughout the year. But Pano has leaned on author Colleen Hoover’s fictional worlds to keep her downtime interesting and maintain a work, life balance.
“I've gotten really into reading this season,” said Pano. “I've read a lot of Colleen Hoover’s books. I finished ‘Verity’ right before coming up here. That's been kind of one of my favorite things. I love when we're playing in a town where there is a Barnes & Noble. It makes it easier for me.”
A good finish at Q-Series would better her Epson Tour status for 2023, giving her more opportunities than last year – something she values and credits her growth to.
“I'm so thankful for last year,” said Pano. “I learned so much. I've always been super competitive, so getting to compete out here against the best of the best is what I've always wanted to do. I'm so lucky to get to spend my days on a golf course with great people and doing what I love every day.”