LPGA Q-Series is both a physical and mental grind for all 104 athletes competing in Mobile, Ala., this week. Savannah Vilaubi knows the grind all too well, playing on both the Epson and LPGA Tours since 2016. The California native has put together two steady rounds so far at Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Magnolia Grove, carding a pair of back-to-back 69s. The second round saw a 2-hour and 43-minute weather delay, a situation that could easily put up a mental wall for many athletes. While Vilaubi felt like the day was never-ending, she kept a positive attitude, which resulted in a strong finish.
“Today it was patience and energy control. It's a really long day when you have a rain delay and feels like the round just wouldn't end," said Vilaubi. “So, you want to keep your energy up and not get too angry over a mistake, or too happy over a really good one. You want to stay neutral, so that was our approach today.
“Over the course of the last two days, I think we've done really well to minimize as many mistakes as possible. I had a few today, but the birdies were there, and when we have scoring opportunities, we've been pretty good at capitalizing on them.”
Vilaubi is already known on tour as having a bubbly personality, but she also has a familiar face on the bag this week to keep the smiles coming. Her fiancé, Hunter Carlson, is her Swiss Army Knife and seems to be a good luck charm for Vilaubi. Earlier this year, Carlson drove from California to Hurricane, Utah, to carry Vilaubi’s bag en route to her victory at the Copper Rock Championship. If he proves to be her good luck charm this week, Carlson could witness the 30-year-old earn medalist honors and return to the LPGA Tour.
“The support is tremendous. I told him this before, too, but he's like a Swiss Army Knife of a man to me. He has adapted to my lifestyle. Any golfer knows it's full of travel and long distance, but he's been a rock star and incredibly supportive,” Vilaubi gushed about her soon-to-be-husband. “He’s excited for me with all the successes and he goes into problem-solving mode when I'm in a rut. With all the stress of Q-Series, it's really, really good to have someone who I love and adore and can make me laugh on the bag.”
Vilaubi earned automatic entry into LPGA Q-Series after finishing the Epson Tour season at No. 18 in the Race for the Card. That meant an almost two-month break from competition, as well as having her entry fee paid for by Seiko Epson Corporation, both things any golfer would be grateful for. Without having to worry about that expense, Vilaubi can be laser-focused on her golf this week. But it also adds an element of pressure.
“It's just tremendous what (Seiko Epson Corporation) has done for us to cover Q-Series. It's one, a huge financial relief. I think just sets a huge precedent for the support of women's golf. They're backing it with a huge financial support for us and that means a lot,” said Vilaubi. “Going into this, you can play knowing that you're not out a bunch of money, and you want to represent (Seiko Epson Corporation) really well, too. So, you're not just playing for yourself, playing willy-nilly because you don't have to pay for it now. You want to show up well for yourself and the work you put in as well as (Seiko Epson Corporation).”
With only two rounds remaining before the cut to the top 60 and ties is made, Vilaubi and Carlson are strategizing about what’s been working. The University of California, Riverside alum feels like the toughest days are over, but knows that by no means are the rest going to be easy.
“So first two days, I think that's the toughest, right? You don't want to fall on your face the second you step on stage. We have a couple under-par rounds and moving forward we're just going to be confident in our ball striking,” Vilaubi said. “My irons into greens have been really solid the last couple days. My caddie, fiancé, has been giving me really great numbers. I think we're going to focus on our course management and knowing that my ball striking is there, so we can fire at pins. Greens are obviously super receptive, and we'll convert as many putts as possible.”