The Epson Tour has made its way to Prattville, Alabama, for the Guardian Championship after coming off the largest purse in tour history last week at the Black Desert Resort Championship. The $375,000 purse delivered a shakeup, but not in the way one might think. The names in the top 10 remain the same, only now in a different order. The most significant changes happened just outside the top 10, with players putting on strong performances over the past two events and working their way into contention for an LPGA Tour card.
|Race for the Card Top 10|
|2||Natasha Andrea Oon*||$114,030|
*Not competing this week at the Guardian Championship
The most significant move of the week belonged to Nataliya Guseva, who leaped from No. 67 to No. 12 in the Race for the Card standings after her win at the Black Desert Resort Championship. However, one of the most crucial moves happened inside the top 10, with Roberta Liti moving from No. 9 to No. 6 and becoming the sixth player to break the $100,000 mark on the season. Liti finished runner-up last week in Utah, moving her into a much more comfortable position heading into the last four events of the season. The Italian had dual status this season but chose to stick with the Epson Tour in hopes of securing full status on the LPGA Tour in 2024. With the second-place finish, Liti put a gap of $25,000 between her and the No. 10 spot, and with another strong finish this week in Alabama, the gap could grow.
“Being able to finish T2 and reaching the 100k mark was a crucial step closer to my goal of earning my LPGA card. I’m proud of myself for what I was able to accomplish, but I am still chasing my first win,” said Liti. “Choosing to play on the Epson Tour the rest of the season and give up on LPGA starts was a tough decision. I went back and forth for weeks, and it was, in a way, heartbreaking to give up on the LPGA after working my whole life to play out there. Ultimately, I just realized it was the best choice for my future, and once I made my decision, I never looked back.”
Two players moved into the top 10 conversation who were outside the top 30 heading into the Circling Raven Championship in Idaho just two events ago. Laetitia Beck and Mariel Galdiano both find themselves in the top 20 and just a few strong finishes away from being in contention heading into the Tour Championship weekend.
Beck has had back-to-back top-10 performances in her last two starts, thanks to two final-round surges. At the Circling Raven Championship, Beck carded a final round 8-under 64 that moved her into T3 for the tournament, then followed it up with a final round 9-under 63 at the Black Desert Resort Championship to finish T6. Those two events alone accounted for nearly 40% of Beck’s total money on the season and moved her within striking distance of playing on the LPGA Tour next season.
“Well, two very low rounds on the final rounds obviously turn mediocre two rounds into a very good final score,” explained Beck. “I just need to be more consistent with finishing lower rounds throughout the week to give me a better chance to get a win instead of finish from so far back.”
Galdiano was the biggest mover after last week outside of Guseva, going from No. 37 to No. 19 with her T2 finish at Soldier Hollow Golf Club. The Hawaii native has been slowly climbing the standings for months, starting with her first top-10 finish of the season in early June at the Champions Fore Change Invitational, adding another top-10 finish at the French Lick Resort Charity Classic in early August. Galdiano has not missed a cut since her finish in French Lick, and her confidence is growing. At the beginning of last week in Utah, Galdiano mentioned her goal was to finish inside the top 35 and earn her spot in the LPGA Tour Q-Series. Now, sitting at No. 19, the 25-year-old has her eyes set on the top 10 but is making sure to manage her expectations.
“The mindset stays the same, but the shift goes towards the small things I can try to improve a little bit more. I’ve accomplished what I wanted to of getting inside the top 35, and I need to keep doing what I am doing, but also push myself to try and get a little more,” said Galdiano. “My mentality has been a lot better in the second half of the season after my finish at French Lick. Even if I don’t hit the shots I want to, I am always looking at the positives. I am going to do my best to get inside that top 10.”