On Sunday, after coming from a three-shot deficit to start the day and emerging victorious from a three-hole playoff, Alexa Pano became a Rolex First-Time winner in Northern Ireland. The 2023 LPGA Tour Rookie recorded rounds of 76-70-69-66 for her maiden win at the ISPS Handa World Invitational presented by Aviv Clinics and, with it, made the move of the week. The Florida native jumped 233 spots from No. 402 to No. 169 in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings, the highest ranking of her young career.
The 19-year-old has struggled to find her footing on the big stage, and before last week, Pano had made only six cuts in 11 starts in her rookie campaign. But with last week's win, the young American became the third rookie to win on the LPGA Tour this season, joining Grace Kim, who won the LOTTE Championship presented by Hoakalei in April, and Rose Zhang, who won the Mizuho America's Open in June.
With Pano's win, she also joins Lilia Vu (Honda LPGA Thailand), Ruoning Yin (DIO Implant LA Open), Kim, Zhang, Allisen Corpuz (U.S. Women's Open), Linn Grant (Dana Open) and Elizabeth Szokol (Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational) as Rolex First-Time Winners.
While Pano's move in the Rolex Rankings was notable, her move in the Race to the CME Globe standings will be more significant at the end of the season. Members finishing in the top 80 and ties on the previous season-ending Points List earn full status for the next season, and Pano's jump from No. 138 to No. 38 is enough to keep her LPGA Tour status for 2024.
Esther Henseleit Moves Up 17 Spots
Esther Henseleit made the second most impactful move up the Rolex Rankings, jumping up 17 spots to No. 112 in the world, after falling just short in a three-way playoff at Galgorm Castle Golf Club. Henseleit played solid in Antrim, Northern Ireland, finishing with a birdie on the par-5 18th hole to force the playoff.
The German has competed on the LPGA Tour since 2020 and has six career top-10 finishes. But her success last week could be the breakthrough moment that propels her up a couple of notches. After she was eliminated from the playoff on Sunday night, she sounded more determined to win than ever.
"I'm pretty happy with how my game is at the moment and how it's been the last couple months,” she said. “I feel really good on the course. I had a lot of fun playing in contention the last two days so hopefully, we'll be back."
Last Push For an LPGA Tour Card
While Gabriela Ruffels holds a commanding lead in the Race for the Card with $156,283 and has secured her spot on the LPGA Tour for the 2024 season, the competition is heating up with only six events remaining and nearly a $1.5 million left to be earned in 2023. A winner is almost guaranteed a card for the 2024 LPGA season.
Alena Sharp made the move of the week with her tie for four at the Wildhorse Ladies Golf Classic. The top 10 moved her from No. 13 to No. 9 in the standings on the Epson Tour, but she also climbed up four spots in the world rankings.
The Canadian has four additional top-10 finishes on the Epson Tour this season, including a win at the Champions Fore Change Invitational, and is looking to work her way back to playing on the LPGA Tour full-time. This week, she will be teeing up in front of a hometown crowd at the CPKC Women's Open at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in Vancouver, Canada.
Rounding out the top ten in the Race for the Card standings are Natasha Andrea Oon (No. 2), Jiwon Jeon (No. 3), Agathe Laisne (No. 4), Jenny Bae (No. 5), Jenny Coleman (No. 6), Roberta Liti (No. 7), Gigi Stoll (No. 8) and Minji Kang (No. 10).