The LPGA Tour-These Girls Are Good
The LPGA Tour has made a remarkable comeback in the last 3 years.
Since the Tour dismissed heavy-handed and unpopular Commissioner Carolyn Bevins in 2010 and replaced her with Mike Whan, the renaissance has been in full swing.
In the early days of 2010, the Tour was on life support as they lost one event after the other. The 2010 schedule had a modern era low of 24 events. That was fully 10 events less than in 2009. The economy obviously played a huge roll in companies dropping their sponsorships but there were several other factors in play.
The Tour’s biggest star, Annika Sorenstam, retired in 2008 and in 2010 the Tour’s reigning queen, 28 year old Lorena Ochoa, announced that she too was going to retire from playing, to focus on her family. Golf, as does any sport, needs ‘superstars’.
A new generation of young American stars has now blossomed into very good players. Teenager, Lexi Thompson won for the first time in 2011 at the ripe old age of 16 becoming the youngest player to ever win a Tour event. She followed that up with a very successful Rookie year on Tour in 2012, where she finished 21st on the Money List.
Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel and 2012 LPGA “Player of the Year” Stacy Lewis have shone the brightest for the US contingent. All three of these young players are in their mid- twenties and have already established themselves by winning a Major Championship. Lewis may well become the Tour’s next dominant player but to do so she will have to outplay a host of other great young players including Taiwan’s Yani Tseng.
Tseng is currently ranked at the top of the Rolex World Rankings and has won an impressive 16 times on her ascendancy to the top of women’s golf. Tseng was the first player from Taiwan to win an LPGA Tour event in 2008, when she was also the Rookie of the Year. She became the youngest player to win back to back Player of the Year awards in 2010 and 2011.
The amazing surge of South Korean players on the Tour is headlined by World #2 Na Yeon Choi and #4 Inbee Park. Choi has won 7 times since her Rookie year in 2008 and the very consistent Park has won 4 times since her first year on tour in 2007. They lead an amazing Armada of 40 players from South Korea who compete on the 2013 LPGA Tour.
It wasn’t very long ago that Se Ri Pak became the first player from South Korea to play full time on the LPGA Tour when she won the LPGA Championship in her Rookie year in 1998. Pak has gone on to win 30 times on the Tour and is already enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Pak is responsible for having inspired a whole nation of golfers.
China’s Shanshan Feng became the first-ever Chinese winner on Tour in dramatic fashion in 2012. Feng’s first win was a Major, at the Wegmans LPGA Championship, and she is currently the 5th ranked player on the Rolex World rankings.
Spain’s Azahara Munoz broke through for her first win in 2012 in her third year on the Tour and she too looks to have a great future ahead of her.
Diminutive Japanese star, Ai Miyazato , has won 9 times since she burst onto the scene in 2006.
Ladies professional golf has certainly become a worldwide entity which can only do fantastic things for the game itself.
The Tour in 2013 plays 28 events and has become one of the most global professional sports. The first 3 events this year were played in Australia, Thailand and Singapore. Over the course of the year, they will play in 9 more countries: Canada, Scotland, France, China, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and Mexico. Including the US, that is a total of 13 counties.
The world is shrinking but golf is getting bigger and that is a grand thing. Commissioner Whan should be very proud of what he and the LPGA Tour have been able to accomplish in the last three years. Not only have they saved a sinking ship, they have transformed her into a beautiful vessel that sails the 7 seas.