The third round of the LPGA and Epson Tour Qualifying Tournament Stage II is officially complete. The 188-player field was regrouped based on score heading into day three, with the lead groups taking on the Panther Course. Moving Day lived up to its name, with the lowest score of the week being posted, along with numerous rounds of 67 or better. Heading into the final round, the number to reach is currently 1-under to earn a place in the field at LPGA Q-Series.
Still holding the top spot at Stage II is Ingrid Lindblad, who posted a 2-under 70 in her third round to move the lead to 13-under. Following closely behind is LPGA Tour veteran Christina Kim, who signed for a 7-under 65 to all but secure her spot in LPGA Q-Series in just over a month’s time.
The round of the day belonged to Alexandra Forsterling, who carded a bogey-free 9-under 63. Forsterling made the turn at 3-under on the day before really turning on the gas in her last nine holes. Coming in, the German birdied the first three holes of her back nine, followed by a string of pars, before finishing her round birdie-eagle for a 6-under 30 to close out her round. Forsterling moves to 11-under for the tournament and is ten shots ahead of the top 40 and ties cutoff for LPGA Q-Series.
“It was a lot of fun. My putter was really on. I putted great. I holed everything it feels like. Once I was on the green it was in the hole,” said Forsterling. “Just feels amazing. My goal is to just get through this stage and then go on to the next one. But it's definitely a little bit of a confidence boost to know that I can compete on a really high level here and then hopefully do the same on the next stage.”
Moving into solo fourth for the tournament is Epson Tour member Yiyi Liu, who turned in a 5-under round of 67 to get to 9-under for the tournament. Liu finished her 2023 Epson Tour season just nine spots shy of earning automatic entry into LPGA Q-Series but has carried her good form right into Stage II. She finished her 2023 campaign with back-to-back top-15 finishes at the Tuscaloosa Toyota Classic and Epson Tour Championship.
“I hit really good on the last four holes, so it made a lot of chances for me,” said Liu. “I played really well, and the weather is so good. Because I played Epson this year, it makes me get stronger and stronger. I know how to hit the ball.”
One of the day’s biggest movers was the #3 amateur in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), Saki Baba. The Japan native rolled in six birdies on her way to a bogey-free 66. The six birdies were the most in a round this week for Baba, who moved up over 50 spots on the leaderboard. Baba won the 2022 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Chambers Bay, becoming the first Japanese player to capture the title since 1985. Now, the 18-year-old has a decision to make if she qualifies for LPGA Q-Series: turn professional or continue her impressive amateur career.
“To be able to come here, to be able to qualify was interesting, a little scary, and fun,” said Baba. “Being able to play in the majors and also playing in the LPGA tournaments in Japan has given me the experience, so I think that's kind of given me a strength to come over here.”