By Ken MacLeod
Through six tense rounds, Kaitlin Milligan minded her business, concentrated on her shots and paid the rest of the field no mind.
Yes, the 25-year-old from Norman said she did not once look at a scoreboard and had no idea how she stood, before, during or after the rounds. She knew she made the cut after 72 holes because she was given a tee time the next day.
And then at the end, after seven days and six rounds, she looked up and found out she is a member of the LPGA Tour.
“I literally did not look up until after the round today,” Milligan said. “I was so nervous this morning, more nervous than I’ve ever been in my life. And now I’m in shock. It’s kind of surreal.”
Milligan shot rounds of 72-69-67-69-69-73 to finish at 11-under on the Magnolia Grove and Crossings Course in Mobile, Ala., site of the final stage of the LPGA’s Q Series, which determines the LPGA rookie field as well as qualifiers for the Epson Tour for 2024. She finished tied for 27th and the top 45 earned LPGA Tour status.
Milligan said she will not know details of her status and how many early events she can play in until later this month. She is proud to have her card and will be only the second native Oklahoman to earn a card since Stacy Prammanasudh of Enid played the tour from 2003 to 2014. Since then Kendall Dye played on tour from 2015 to 2021. Others have played in a few events, but no one else has played a full season on tour.
Also competing in the final stage was Lilly Thomas, who left the University of Tulsa in the middle of her senior season to turn professional and pursue her LPGA Tour card. Thomas made the 72-hole cut to ensure status on the 2024 Epson Tour but finished outside the top 45 at 69th, shooting 1-under for six rounds.
Milligan said the vibe during the final stage event was intense, but she was determined to stay loose and have a good time. The decision not to look at leaderboards for six rounds (Saturday was rained out) helped. Also helping was the courses played long, giving her more opportunities than normal to hit driver and take advantage of her prodigious length off the tee.
“I was able to hit driver a lot more than normal and I was hitting it well,” she said. “I was consistent with my irons and had a lot of good birdie looks. The putting was consistent. Everything was pretty consistent and I wasn’t stressed about any particular shots.”
Milligan is driving back to Norman Thursday with her family and will be able to take a few weeks off through Christmas before determining which events she can play early in the season.
Milligan was born in Tulsa but grew up from the age of two in Norman, where was the 2017 Class 6A state champion for Norman North. She played four years at the University of Oklahoma, where she compiled the school’s third lowest career scoring average and shot an OU record 62 in the first round of the Westbrook Invitational in 2018. She qualified for and played on the Epson Tour in both 2022 and this year, and has registered two top-10 finishes.
Milligan also won the 2018 Women’s Oklahoma Golf Association State Amateur, defeating OU teammate Sydney Youngblood in the finals at Meadowbrook Country Club in Tulsa. She was named the 2021 winner of the Everett Dobson Award by the Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame.