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Lila Galea’i’s Final Round

Much like a golf ball in the Utah air, sound travels a long way around the vast property of Copper Rock Golf Course. As she stood on the No. 5 green Saturday morning, Lila Galea’i could hear the tournament leaders being introduced on the No. 1 tee, several hundred yards away.

At that moment, the former BYU golfer felt far removed from the top of the Copper Rock Championship’s leaderboard, as her hopes for a fast start in the final round were derailed by short-game mistakes.

“This isn’t going the way I planned,” she thought to herself.

The script suddenly changed. And even though she finished well behind the record-setting winner, Galea’i could proudly pose alongside Fiona Xu while holding the first low amateur trophy that Copper Rock Championship organizers have awarded in the LPGA Epson Tour event. Of the four area collegians who received sponsor exemptions, only Galea’i made the 36-hole cut in Hurricane.

Lela Galea’i finished her Epson Tour Copper Rock Championship play with a top 20 finish and holding the Low Amateur trophy along side champion Fiona Xu. (Photo: Fairways Media/Randy Dodson)

Galea’i’s 72-69-70 effort was good for a tie for 19th place and topped her T29 finish of 2023, when she was one of two local invitees. “Last year was fun and I was super excited to come back and glad that I played really well,” she said.

Xu was exceptional in her first Utah appearance as an Epson Tour rookie. She posted 67-63-64 for a 22-under-par total and a seven-stroke victory over Kaleigh Telfer in easily the most dominant performance in the Copper Rock Championship’s four-year history.

2024 Epson Tour Copper Rock Champion, Fiona Xu (Photo: Fairways Media/Randy Dodson)

The 19-year-old New Zealand native has a win and a runner-up result in her six starts on the tour, with a tie for 22nd ranking as her lowest finish.

As for Galea’i, Saturday’s 70 is only tied for third best among her six rounds in Hurricane, but this may have been her most impressive performance. Starting with a challenging two-putt opportunity for a birdie on the par-5 No. 5, she made four birdies and no bogeys over the last 14 holes to salvage what began as a frustrating round.

“That was something I learned about myself, that I can stay composed and finish like I want to,” Galea’i said.

She regrouped nicely after bogeying the short par-4 No. 3, where she nearly drove the green before chipping and putting poorly, and then lipped out a par attempt on No. 4. Her day got a lot better, as she hit every fairway on the back nine and never came close to making a bogey. She ended up one stroke worse than last year’s 72-70-68 performance, but better in relation to the field.

This year’s Utah Women’s Four-Ball Championship may be one of the last amateur events for Lela Galea’i, the 2021 Women’s State Am champion. (Photo: Fairways Media/Randy Dodson)

And that’s encouraging, as she targets life as a touring pro. “I still have time to get better and get consistent,” she said. “Overall, I came out of here learning a lot about myself, and I wasn’t really nervous throughout any part of the whole week.”

Galea’i will play with Kareen Larson later this month in the Utah Women’s Four-Ball Championship as they seek a third title. That may be one of the last amateur events for the 2021 Women’s State Am champion, although her pursuit of LPGA Tour Qualifying won’t begin in earnest until after she completes her BYU degree in 2025 (her college eligibility ended in April).

Saturday’s round officially marked the end of her BYU affiliation, using one of the Copper Rock Championship’s collegiate exemptions. “I’ve got to turn in all my clothes,” she joked.

Actually, she can wear them this summer, when she joins her former Cougar teammates on a two-week tour of Ireland.


Story written by Fairways Media senior writer, Kurt Kragthorpe.