In its 43-year existence, the Epson Tour has served as the Official Qualifying Tour of the LPGA, sending 192 athletes to the LPGA Tour. Each year, graduates like Lorena Ochoa, Inbee Park, Nelly Korda, Leona Maguire, among others, have seen plenty of success, securing over 400 LPGA Tour titles since 1999.
In 2023, two Epson Tour graduates impressively won four times, while four others also picked up victories. Lilia Vu (2021) and Celine Boutier (2017), who each added “major champion” to their resume this year, are preparing to tee it up in Naples, Fla., at the CME Group Tour Championship this week and battle it out for Rolex Player of the Year honors.
“I definitely found myself in the position to have a chance to win it at the end, so definitely has been more on my mind,” said Boutier. “But Lilia has had such an incredible season. It's hard to beat two majors. If I don't get it, I completely understand. She also deserves it as well. Just going to focus on finishing the season strong and see what happens.”
Boutier had two career victories before the 2023 season but proved that she is indeed one of the best female golfers in the world when she picked up her first major in her home country at The Amundi Evian Championship. The 30-year-old LPGA Tour veteran used that momentum to take home another trophy the following week, becoming the first athlete to win in back-to-back events since Jin Young Ko last did so in 2021. If Vu does not capture her fifth win this week in Naples, Boutier will be the only player with back-to-back wins this season.
Vu also had a breakout season, winning two major championships in four months after becoming a Rolex First-Time Winner at the Honda LPGA Thailand in February. But while those were her first few victories on the LPGA Tour, the California native is no stranger to the winner’s circle. Before graduating from the Epson Tour in 2021, Vu took home three titles, propelling her to Player of the Year honors and giving her a second chance on the biggest stage in women’s golf after a rocky start to her career. Now, two years later, Vu is again in the running to be named Rolex Player of the Year, leading the point standings after capturing her fourth victory of the 2023 season at The ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican. And with one event left to play, Vu knows she will need to have her best stuff ready if she wants to secure any of the season-long awards for which she’s in the running at Tiburón Golf Club.
“I think everyone is just so talented. I remember specifically last week, hole No. 3 of last week, it was 175 into the wind and we all hit it to like 10 feet,” Vu said. “I'm like, (dang), we're really good. Could the guys do this with a 5-iron? I think they play different yardages into par-3s in my opinion. I think the girls out here are amazing and more people should watch us.”
2023 LPGA Tour Wins by Epson Tour Graduates:
- Lilia Vu (2021) – Honda LPGA Thailand
- Celine Boutier (2017) – LPGA Drive On Championship
- Grace Kim (2022) – LOTTE Championship presented by Hoakalei
- Lilia Vu – The Chevron Championship
- Hannah Green (2017) – JM Eagle LA Championship presented by Plastpro
- Leona Maguire (2019) – Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give
- Elizabeth Szokol (2018) – Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational
- Celine Boutier – The Amundi Evian Championship
- Celine Boutier – FREED GROUP Women’s Scottish Open presented by Trust Golf
- Lilia Vu – AIG Women’s Open
- Celine Boutier – Maybank Championship
- Lilia Vu – The ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican