Lucy Li and Alexa Pano have competed in a combined 22 LPGA events before teeing it up this week for the first time as LPGA members at the 2023 Drive On Championship. Sandwiched in between them at a pre-tournament presser sat Ellinor Sudow, a Swedish player who didn’t even seriously consider the LPGA until she got to college. This week marks her first LPGA start.
Of the 31 LPGA rookies this season, 23 are in the field this week for the first full-field domestic tournament. Li, who earned her card by finishing in the top 10 on the Epson Tour last season, hasn’t teed it up in an LPGA event since last October. Both Sudow and Pano qualified through Q-Series.
In between practice, Li, 20, got cranking on her schoolwork at the University of Pennsylvania. She will soon declare a double major in data analytics and psychology. Both 18-year-old Pano and Li turned professional out of high school.
“I’m taking one course now and pretty much just started my junior year in college,” said Li, “so I got a lot of good work done.”
Pano, who gained fame when she appeared in the Netflix documentary “The Short Game,” tied for 32nd at the LET’s Aramco Saudi Ladies International in February and then recently played two events on the Epson Tour. Pano made her first start on the LPGA in 2018 at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic. She’s made the cut once in eight starts.
“It kind of feels like I’ve been working towards this for a really long time,” said Pano, “so been a very long time coming.”
While Pano and Li made headlines as pre-teens, Sudow took up golf rather late in life and never qualified for the Swedish National Team. After playing collegiately at UNC Charlotte and later Arizona for graduate work, Sudow signed up for qualifying school hoping to get Epson Tour status and wound up with an LPGA card.
“I was super stoked to be here yesterday,” said Sudow, “just coming down the range for the first time, see all the players and having Nelly (Korda) behind me and all that cool stuff.”
When asked about goals for the season, Pano talked about having an open mind and learning. Li echoed similar thoughts and talked about focusing on her process.
Sudow, however, didn’t hold back.
“I think we’re stupid if we don’t say we want to be Rookie of the Year and win a tournament,” said Sudow. “That’s why we’re here. We’re here to compete. That would be really cool to me. I usually set really lofty goals.
“I don’t know if they’re realistic, but that’s the dream and what we’re aiming for.”
Here are several LPGA rookies making their tour debut this week: