The last few tournaments of the Epson Tour season are highlighted by the players near the top of the Race for the Card standings, and rightly so. These are the players who have played the best all season and could be the next star of the LPGA Tour. The likes of Nelly Korda, Lilia Vu, Leona Maguire, and Celine Boutier are just a few of the players who got their starts on the LPGA Tour thanks to the Race for the Card and have never looked back. That said, the season's last few weeks are just as crucial for the players near the 125 mark on the money list and is the cutoff for some players to get into Stage II and possibly their last chance to keep their Epson Tour status for 2024.
Joy Chou is one of those players making the most out of the opportunity she got at last week's Black Desert Resort Championship. The rookie has been battling injuries throughout the year, which has caused performances that were not up to her standard. Chou had to return to Stage I due to her place on the money list and missed the cut by one shot. With new policies in place, Chou does not have any Epson Tour status for 2024 due to the missed cut, but she still has a chance to earn her place back on the Epson Tour if she can finish the 2023 season in the top 125 on the money list. With field sizes dropping and entries being based on the money list, Chou's spot at 139th on the money list did not have her in a good position to make her way back into the top 125 by the end of the year. When she teed off at the Black Desert Resort Championship, it was one of her last opportunities to try and play her way back into the Epson Tour for the 2024 season.
"There have been some good things this year and some, I don't want to say bad things, but there have been some setbacks," said Chou. "I injured myself right before I teed off at Battle Creek, and it took me a while to finally be able to swing properly. I knew I had to keep playing to try and earn some status for next year though. Missing the cut at Stage I by a shot was a setback, and I was upset for sure. I just told my coach it was okay, and I was going to make it to the top 125, and I will be able to play next year."
Chou backed up what she told her coach. The 24-year-old started her tournament with a 3-under 69 to put herself inside the cutline by a couple of shots heading into day two. She would then turn in a 4-under 68 to move to 7-under for the tournament and within the cut line. Another 4-under round moved Chou to 11-under for the tournament, and she had her highest finish of the season with a T19 result. The top 20 finish moved Chou from 139 to 108 on the money list, well inside the 125 mark, and in a good position for the last four events of the season.
"I knew that tournament had almost double the purse of a normal tournament, so it was an important week," said Chou. "Just having supportive people around me has really helped me. We don't overthink stuff and we don't rush into anything. Missing the cut at Stage I was a wake-up call. Getting inside the 125 was a sense of relief, but I am not done."
With some stress off her shoulders and her injury healed, Chou has set new goals for herself in the last four tournaments. The goals are not result-based but more towards building on her momentum for the rest of her season.
"I set small, medium, and big goals for myself all the time," explained Chou. "I achieved one of my big goals of getting inside the 125; now I'm just focusing on how I can improve every single day. I am not trying to focus on numbers anymore and just focus on how I can get better. Really now, it is just go play some golf."
Chou tees off for her first round of the Guardian Championship on Friday, September 15, at 1:08 p.m. as she looks to keep her good play rolling.