Here in the closing days of 2022, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on all the great progress we’ve seen this year while also nodding toward the exciting things that lie ahead for the LPGA Tour and women’s sports more broadly in the coming year.
First, wow, what a thrilling season we witnessed. Will anyone forget the fond farewell paid to the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills, a place that will always hold a special place in LPGA history? The swan song for the Chevron Championship in the California desert ushered in our game’s newest major champion as Jennifer Kupcho held off a charging Jessica Korda in a thrilling Sunday finish.
What we didn’t know at the time was that Kupcho’s last leap into Poppie’s Pond would portend a great season ahead, not just for her, but for all of us.
From the return of familiar major champions like In Gee Chun, Minjee Lee and Brooke Henderson to the debut of superstars like 19-year-old Rolex Rookie of the Year Atthaya Thitikul and rookie sensation Hye-Jin Choi, 2022 seemed to have it all. Veterans like Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Paula Reto, and Ashleigh Buhai finally broke through to become Rolex First-Time Winners, while we also welcomed exciting new champions like Ayaka Furue, Andrea Lee, Nanna Koerstz Madsen, Maya Stark, Leona Maguire, and Gemma Dryburgh.
Minjee Lee set eye-popping ball-striking numbers while winning twice, including the Cognizant Founders Cup and the U.S. Women’s Open, with a purse that grew from $5 million to $10 million in 2022. Minjee also captured the Rolex Annika Major Award and scored the coveted $1 million season-long Aon Risk Reward Challenge. At season’s peak, her proximity-to-the-hole statistics were the best in the game, man or woman, and some of the best of all time.
And history was made when Lydia Ko won three times, including the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, to earn Rolex LPGA Player of the Year honors along with the Vare Trophy. With her win at the CME Tour Championship, she took home the biggest prize in women’s golf and earned over $4 million for the year, the second-most for a single-season in history behind Lorena Ochoa. Lydia also returned to No.1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, setting another record for the longest stretch between stints at No.1.
Danielle Kang won the season-opener but had to take time away in the spring for medical reasons. Seeing her return late in the summer with great success inspired us all.
And how proud were we to see Lexi Thompson and Nelly Korda displaying their enormous talents with the PGA Tour stars at the QBE Shootout just a few weeks ago?
We had a lot to cheer for in 2022 - more televised LPGA coverage in more countries than at any point in history; 27 players who earned more than $1 million, the most of any year in history, plus a 30% increase in sponsorships.
Also, for the first time, we reached 1,900 LPGA Professionals, dedicated members who teach, coach, and grow the game with great passion and skill at a grassroots level around the world.
LPGA*USGA Girls Golf continues to be one of the fastest-growing developmental programs in all of sports, and our LPGA Amateurs are reaching record levels of participation.
Next year will be even bigger and better. In 2023, LPGA Tour players will compete for more than $100 million in total purses at some of the world’s very best golf courses.
We have fabulous new events on the schedule, including the return of the Hanwha LIFEPLUS International Crown at TPC Harding Park, the JM Eagle LA Championship presented by Plastpro at Wilshire Country Club, the Mizuho Americas Open at Liberty National Golf Course and The ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican.
Once again, we will keep pushing for more television coverage and unique ways for our fans to see our players in action. And, thanks to the help of our wonderful partners, we will be able to provide fans with more detailed statistics on their favorite players through the KPMG Performance Insight Program.
The catalyst for all this positive news is you. Without our partners, our players, our teaching pros, our staff, our tournament operators, our caddies, our volunteers, and our fans, none of this would be possible. We are truly grateful and look forward to even greater engagement, excitement, impact and growth.
Of course, we know we still have much work to do to reach our goals. In 2023 and beyond, we at the LPGA will continue to spend every waking moment growing the professional game so that the greatest female players on the planet can live their dreams and provide fans and partners with the best experience in sports. In the process, we will passionately advance and elevate opportunities for girls and women on and off the golf course.
So, with that, on behalf of everyone at the LPGA, have a healthy and happy holiday season, and a happy new year. We look forward to seeing you in 2023.