HITTING HER STRIDE
South Africa’s former top-ranked female amateur player has her sights set on the main stage. Mike Green
Kaleigh Telfer’s second-place finish at the Epson Tour Championship got her straight into the final stage of the LPGA Tour’s qualifying process, Q-Series, starting on 30 November in Mobile, Alabama.
The 25-year-old spent five years at Auburn University after a decorated amateur career which saw her at the top of the pile in South African amateur rankings at the beginning of 2016. She graduated with a Bachelors in Wildlife Enterprise Management in 2022 and turned professional after that.
While Telfer had some success on the Epson Tour, she hadn’t beaten the door down as she tried to get into the big league of the LPGA Tour.
“My ultimate dream was always to be a pro and obviously play on the LPGA, which is why I came to the US for college,” she says. “That way I could play the feeder tours into the LPGA and that’s how I started playing the Epson Tour which I’ve really enjoyed. It’s completely different to playing amateur golf but I enjoy competing and having the opportunity to earn some money.
“The Epson Tour is extremely hard. The competition is really tough. But I enjoy it. I’m playing against people who want to be the best in the world and I’m just trying to make my way up to the LPGA.”
Then came a dream weekend at the Epson Tour Championship at the beginning of October – she carded an eight-under 64 in the third round, and a double-bogey-eagle finish on 17 and 18 in the final round saw her finish in a share of second.
“That last weekend was crazy,” says Telfer. “Obviously, I was going into the week trying to finish top 35 on the moneylist to skip stage two and go straight to the final stage. But then I was playing really good golf and everything just fell into place. I’d been playing well for a while. I was just waiting for it to all fall into place and it just happened at the championship.
“I managed to get myself into contention, after shooting eight under on Saturday, which is my best score ever at a tournament. Everything was just going well. I was making putts, hitting it close. I got myself into contention so the pressure of trying to make it into that top 35 was kind of off because I knew I had to finish tie-third or better.
“Then the pressure came trying to win my first Epson Tour event. That was pretty difficult, I haven’t been in that position of trying to win a golf tournament since college. Obviously on the 17th, the pressure got to me and I hooked it into the water, but I managed to have an exciting finish and make eagle on the last hole to get me tie for second which is my best result on the Epson Tour.”
Watch Telfer in action on the Epson Tour.
But how did she get in to golf? “I got into the sport at the age of six,” she says. “It was a sport in primary school and I played every sport. I then started playing tournaments at the age of 13 when I started playing women’s golf tournaments and then I really enjoyed golf.
“But at the beginning I enjoyed team sports more so I was more interested in all the sports like soccer, water polo, hockey… And eventually, that’s what I liked about going to college in the US. We played as a team, so it brought that aspect into it.
“My parents have never really played golf,” she adds. “They only started probably a couple of years ago, so we just play socially on the weekends when we do play together.”
No social golf for a while now, though. The short-term plan is to make it through the final stage of the qualifying process and get on to the biggest stage of them all in women’s professional golf.
“I have managed to skip stage two of qualifying school,” says Telfer, “and now I’m heading to stage three at the end of November. I think the top 25 get full LPGA status and the balance of the top 45 get conditional status. So that’s obviously my goal. But I've still got a lot of work to do and it’s a very tough six days of competition.”
At least she doesn’t have to rely on the GoFundMe campaign she started to cover her costs of getting there: “It was something I wasn’t proud of. I have a great sponsor, but I just needed a little extra money to take the pressure off,” she says of a campaign that reached $2 000. “Q-School costs $3 500, but now that I finished in the top 35 on the list, the LPGA Tour will cover that, which will be a huge help.”
So will producing the kind of golf she played in getting to where she is now.
Telfer’s top five.
My ultimate dream was always to be a pro and obviously play on the LPGA, which is why I came to the US for college
I managed to have an exciting finish and make eagle on the last hole to get me tie for second, which is my best result on the Epson Tour
AUBURN UNIVERSITY/MARK RUNNACLES/LET/TROY WINFIELD/SUNSHINE TOUR/ROLEX/SUPPLIED