Gabriella When she agreed to attend Q-School in Spain at the invitation of a friend, she had no prior knowledge of the Ladies European Tour. After all, this was a sort of sequel. She’d already taken a break from touring. Why not try something completely new?
Then, at the La Manga Club, she won Q-School, and then received the shock of her life when she discovered that much of the Ladies European Tour isn’t held in Europe.
She explained, “I genuinely assumed it was Europe plus Dubai.”
Following her victory, she was bombarded with questions, the most common of which was: “Are you going to stay in Europe?” How will you be able to afford all of this?
Before we get into the financial aspects of flying from California to Saudi Arabia and Africa for her first three starts of the season (the LET began earlier this month in Kenya), it’s important to remember how Then got here.
She began playing golf at the age of five, making her first birdie at the age of eight, qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Amateur at the age of twelve, and competed in her first U.S. Women’s Open at the age of fourteen. Then, just weeks before commencing courses at USC, she won the 2013 U.S. Girls’ Junior, setting the school record most rounds played over the course of her four-year career.
Then was a “worker,” according to USC head coach Justin Silverstein, and his effort extended beyond the practice tee. Then’s parents supported her junior and amateur careers, but she realized she’d have to start earning money on her own to advance.
During her college years, Then performed a variety of jobs to save money for Q-School and the Epson Tour (formerly Symetra).
After missing out on advancing to Stage II of LPGA Qualifying School by a single shot in 2019, Then decided to try something new in 2019. She’d been on what’s now known as the Epson Tour for three seasons and was running out of money and motivation.
She obtained a position in marketing and sales at Le Mieux skin care and became a fan of the game, following boyfriend Eric Sugimoto to the Japan Golf Tour, where he was playing at the time at USC.
After spending some time outside the ropes, Then began to question if she had left pro golf too soon.
Her friends and family chipped in money to get her back on the Cactus Tour, where she thought she’d lost everything she’d learned during her 18-month hiatus.
Instead, she won three times on the Cactus and Women’s All Pro Tours in four months, reigniting her love. After that, she had depleted her savings account in order to go all-in on herself a second time.
“I feel like I’m playing for my own personal objectives and love of the game,” she explained about how things are different this time.
Kaley In was the one who recommended LET Q-School in the first place. At Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach, California, the two buddies practice together. Then knew she’d have Epson Tour eligibility thanks to her second-place result at LPGA Q-School last year, but Europe presented a completely different experience.
“When I saw the schedule, I was very overwhelmed,” Then stated after winning the qualifying. “Wow, these are locations I never expected to visit in my life.”
Then she began to plan her year’s expenses and realized that they would be double or triple what she needed for the Epson Tour.
Dave’s Hot Chicken, Konnect Resource, and goodr sunglasses are among the sponsors. But she understood she’d need more assistance to get started on the LET, which is a path taken by very few Americans.
“I’ve been a professional golfer for five years, so I’m used to it,” Then said of receiving money. “I’m kind of used to the continual fundraising and networking, which I enjoy doing.”
Starting a GoFundMe page, on the other hand, was new to her and required some persuasion from friends. She launched her GoFundMe page three weeks ago at 8 p.m., sending a private email to people she felt would be interested before going public on social media.
“Just from that, I got 15 different people to donate straight immediately,” she added, “in sums I could’ve never anticipated.” That night, I was in tears because I was so surprised.”
On the GoFundMe page, Then has raised just over $16,000 to date, putting her halfway to her $40,000 target.
Then’s time at USC coincided with that of AIG Women’s British Open champion Sophia Popov, and the two pals have been in touch a lot recently as Then prepares for a year of golf on the LET and Epson Tours. Popov’s story of almost leaving golf, winning on the Cactus Tour, and then winning a major months later continues to inspire others.
Then is described by Silverstein as a perpetual optimist, someone who has time for everyone and sees the glass as half-full. That mindset will serve Then well as she pursues her LPGA dream for the second time.
“I’m more capable than I’ve ever been in my career,” Then remarked. “I feel like I have a chance to play with the best.”
She’s willing to go to any length to achieve her goal.