When Kate Smith made her walk to the first tee on the Falls Course at Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Magnolia Grove, she only had one thing on her mind: secure LPGA Tour Membership for the 2024 season. And it didn’t matter what kind.
“My goal going into the week was just to get LPGA status of any kind,” said Smith. “Having any opportunity to get some starts in 2024 would be huge for me. I’m still focused on that and hoping to keep recording solid golf rounds that keep me in the mix.”
At LPGA Q-Series, players who finish in the top 45 and ties at the end of six rounds will earn LPGA Tour status for next season. The players who finish in the top 20 and ties will earn Category 14 status, while players who finish from 21st to 45th will earn Category 15 status for the upcoming season. The slight difference in categories means that those in Category 14 will receive starts in just a few more events on the LPGA Tour than those players in Category 15, which could possibly affect how a player maintains their status on the LPGA Tour the next year.
Smith started behind the eight ball in her first-ever appearance at LPGA Q-Series, opening her tournament with a 1-over round on the Fall Course. The next day, Smith started to find her footing, posting a 2-under round on the Crossings Course to make her way into red numbers for the tournament. The third round is when the Minnesota native really put herself into contention to make 2024 her rookie season on the LPGA Tour as she went bogey-free en route to a 6-under 66 on the Crossings Course. That bogey-free third round moved Smith to 7-under for the tournament and into a tie for 22nd, just one shot outside the top 20.
“I was definitely pretty nervous the first round,” said Smith. “Each day I’ve felt a little more comfortable. I hope to continue those good feelings.”
The 24-year-old made a big jump in her sophomore season on the Epson Tour. Smith finished 78th on the Official Money List after her rookie season in 2022 and then jumped to 19th in her second season in 2023. Her four career top-10 finishes all came this season, with her best career finish coming at the Four Winds Invitational where Smith ultimately tied for second.
“This year has been great overall,” said Smith of her 2023 Epson Tour season. “I’ve really just learned so much, so I’ve been trying to put those lessons to good use this week. I’m feeling confident but I know there’s so much golf left and a lot of situations out of my control. One day at a time.”
The fourth round had its ups and downs for Smith, who carded three birdies and three bogeys on her way to an even-par 71 on the Falls Course on Monday. The University of Nebraska alum now sits in a tie for 33rd, three shots outside of the top 20 and one shot ahead of the top 45. Smith had her struggles on the Falls Course this week, where she is 1-over through 36 holes, but fortunately for her, the final two rounds will be played on the Crossings Course, where she is 8-under through 36 holes.