Choi Closes with 68, Takes 1st in LPGA Q-Series; Smith Fails to Advance

December 7, 2023 | 9 min.
By Michael R Fermoyle

MOBILE, Alabama -- Robyn Choi claimed medalist honors -- and the $15,000 prize for first place -- at the LPGA Tour's Q-Series (the final stage of Q-School) on Wednesday by shooting a 4-under-par 68 and finishing the 108-hole ordeal with a 401 total. That was 29 under par, and three strokes better than anyone else could do. 

Obviously, she made a lot of birdies -- 35 in all. But she and just about all of the other players who finished in the top 10, also did an impressive job of avoiding bogeys. Choi, a 25-year-old former University of Colorado All-American, made only four bogeys -- plus a double -- in six rounds. She bogeyed the 15th hole of a first-round 69 last Thursday, and then made nothing but pars and birdies for the next 57 holes, while posting scores of 68, 64 and 64.

Her streak ended when she double bogeyed the first hole of Round 5 on Tuesday at the Crossings Course, and she made her first bogey in four rounds on the 18th hole of that round. But she still managed to shoot 68.

The Q-Series was played at the Robert Trent Jones Trail at Magnolia Grove, on two courses -- Crossings (par 72) and Falls (par 71). Every player in the field played each of those courses twice during the first four rounds, before the field was cut to the top 65 and ties. All 70 of the players who survived the cut played their last two rounds at Crossings. Now that it's over, the top 45 players and ties (50 in all) will graduate to the LPGA Tour for the 2024 season.

As impressive Choi was in keeping her scorecard clean for those 57 holes, Mao Saigo, who tied So Mi Lee for second place at 404, had an even longer streak. Saigo, like Choi, opened with a 69 at Crossings. On Friday, she played her second round at Falls and didn't make a par on the first four holes, going bogey-birdie-birdie-bogey. But after making that bogey on the fourth hole, she played the next 75 holes without making a bogey -- or double. In the process, she went 68-65-66-66.

Saigo, who is only 22 but has already won six times on the LPGA Tour of Japan, had her bogeyless streak snapped when she made a 4 at the par-3 eighth hole Wednesday. She made another bogey two holes later, at the par-4 10th, but compensated with consecutive birdies on the par-5 16th and par-3 17th holes, and closed with a 70. 

As for Lee, 24, a five-time winniner on the LPGA Tour of Korea, she came into the final round having gone 36 holes without a bogey. While she was at it, she made 14 birdies and an eagle, shot 65 and 63, and grabbed the 90-hole lead. But she bogeyed the second hole Wednesday, and made only one birdie in her last 16 holes, on the par-5 fourth hole. She had one bogey, too, at the par-4 15th, and ended up with a 73.

She was alone in second, three ahead of Saigo, with four holes to go, but her bogey at the 15th, combined with Saigo's birdies at 16 and 17 left them tied for second.

Finishing fourth, another five strokes back at 409, was Mina Harigae, a former child prodigy who won the California Women's Amateur Championship four years in a row, beginning in 2001 -- when she was 12 years old. She won the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links in 2007, when she was 18. Now 34, she's made more than $4 million on the LPGA Tour, and she was the runner-up in the 2022 U.S. Women's Open. All of those credentials notwithstanding, she was back at Q-School this year, but was never in any danger of not returning the LPGA Tour. 

Every one of her six scores was 70 or lower, and she had two long bogey-free streaks, one of 35 holes and the other 22 holes. Harigae capped off her efforts in the Q-Series by matching the low score on the final day, a 67. It was an interesting round. She was 1 under after seven holes, then made six birdies, two bogeys -- and one par -- in the next nine holes. 

There was a tie for fifth at 410, between Gurleen Kaur, a former four-time All-American at Baylor, and Polly Mack, who won the German National Championship in 2016, when she was 17. Kaur (pronounced Core) had the second-longest bogey-free stretch of the tournament -- 66 holes -- and she matched Choi for the third-best score of the final day, a 68. Mack got off to a shaky start in the first round -- par-bogey-bogey-par-eagle-bogey, but turned it into a 71, and she made only two bogeys in her last four rounds. The first of those bogeys came at the 17th hole in Round 3, and she didn't make another one until 52 holes later, on the 15th hole at Crosssings in Round 6. She shot 69 on Wednesday. 

As for the drama that went on further down in the standings, it took a score of 422 (8 under) to make the top 45. In the end, there was a seven-way tie for 38th place at 421, but for a while, there were eight tied for 38th at 421, and that would have made it the Magic Number. But a late bogey turned a 421 into a 422, and that created the six-way tie for 45th at 422, letting five extra women in. 

Kate Smith, the former five-time Minnesota state high school champion from Detroit Lakes -- and State Amateur and State Open champ -- was at 8 under when the day began, and tied for 43rd. There was no margin for error, and she took a wrong turn early. Starting on the back nine, she bogeyed the 12th hole, and made another bogey at the par-5 16th. She birdied the par-3 17th, but followed it with a bogey at the 18th, and she made two more bogeys down the stretch, at the seventh and ninth holes. All of which added up to a 76, and 426.

That means she will be back on the Epson Tour next year. In 2023, she played in 21 tournaments on the Epson schedule and made $66,457. That put her at No. 19 on the money list. The top 10 from the season-endinig money list move up to the LPGA Tour each year -- thereby avoiding the Q-Series -- and Smith wasn't all that far from being No. 10. She tied for second and made $16,020 in the August at the Four Wiinds Invitational in South Bend, Ind. First place at the Four Winds was $30,000, and that, basically was the difference between Smith at No. 19 on the money list and No. 10 Kristen Gillman, who made $95,701.   

LPGA Q-School

Q-Series (the final stage -- 108 holes)

Nov. 30-Dec. 6

At Robert Trent Jones Trail at Magnolia Grove

Crossings Course (par 72) 

Falls Course (par 71)

All players had two rounds each on Crossings and Falls during the first four rounds. The 70 players who made the 72-hole cut all played the final two rounds at Crossings.

Mobile, Ala. 

Final results (the top 45 finishers earn LPGA Tour Cards for 2024; all other finishers will have status on the Epson Tour)

1. Robyn Choi        $15,000                69-67-64-64-68-68--401 (-29)

T2. So Mi Lee         $10,250               68-65-70-65-63-73--404

T2. Mao Saigo        $10,250               69-68-65-66-66-70--404

4. Mina Harigae        $7,500               68-66-68-70-70-67--409

T5. Hurleen Kaur      $5,750               70-68-67-67-70-68--410

T5. Polly Mack          $5,750               71-68-69-68-65-69--410

T7. Hyo Joon Jang    $4,583               69-66-67-71-68-70--411

T7. Yu Jin Sung         $4,583               68-68-69-67-69-70--411

T7. Yuri Yoshida         $4,583               67-69-67-65-69-74--411

What it took to advance -- 422 (6-way tie for 45th)

T65. Kate Smith                                   72-70-66-71-71-76--426

72-hole cut -- 283

Kim Kaufman                                         69-70-75-72--286

Stage II

Oct. 17-20

At Plantation Golf & Country Club

Bobcat Course (par 72)

Panther Course (par 72)

Venice, Fla.

Final results (top 40 finishers advance to Q-Series, 11/30-12/5 at Robert Jones Trail Magnolia Grove GC in Mobile, Ala.)

1. Ingrid Lindblad (a), Sweden             67-66-70-67--270 (will not advance, because she's retaining her amateur status)

2. Alexandra Forsterling, Germany.     69-73-63-69--274

3. Pinyada Kuvanun, Thailand            70-67-71-69--277

T4. Kaitlin Milligan, Norman, Okla.       68-73-72-65--278

T4. Yu Jin Sung, South Korea              69-70-70-69--278

T15. Kim Kaufman, Clark, S.D.          69-72-69-73--283

What it took -- 286 (12-way tie for 30th)

Stage I

Aug. 28-31

At Mission Hills -- Dinah Shore Course (par 72)

@ Arnold Palmer Course (par 72)

@ at Indian Wells -- Classic Course (par 72)

Final results (top 99 advance to Stage II, Oct. 17-20 at Plantation G&CC in Venice, Fla.)

T1. Suzuka Yamaguchi             68-69-66-70--273

T1. Savannah Grewal (a)          67-68-66-72--273

T3. Jensen Castle (a)                66-71-69-69--275
T3. Fiona Xu (a)                         69-68-68-70--275

5. Erica Shepherd                      69-69-70-68--276

What it took -- 289 (11-way tie for 89th)

54-hole cut -- 219

Betsy Kelly                               80-78-72--230



Michael R Fermoyle

Mike Fermoyle’s amateur golf career features state titles in five different decades, beginning with the State Public Links (1969), three State Amateurs (1970, 1973 and 1980), and four State Four-Ball championships (1972, 1985, 1993 and 2001). Fermoyle was medalist at the Pine to Palm in 1971, won the Resorters in 1972, made the cut at the State Amateur 18 consecutive years (1969 to 1986), the last being 2000, and amassed 13 top-ten finishes. Fermoyle also made it to the semi-final matches at the MGA’s annual match play championship, the Players’, in 1982 and 1987.

Fermoyle enjoyed a career as a sportswriter at the St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch before retiring in 2006. Two years later he began a second career covering the golf beat exclusively for the MGA and its website,, where he ranks individual prep golfers and teams, provides coverage on local amateur and professional tournaments and keeps tabs on how Minnesotans are faring on the various professional tours.

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