The LPGA Tour concludes the 2012 season this week at the CME Group Titleholders and will be played on a new course this year; The TwinEagles Club, Eagles Course in Naples, Fla.
The second annual event will be staged Nov. 15-18 and feature a star-studded field of 73 players who punched their ticket after qualifying at one of the 26 LPGA events this year. Those players will compete for a total purse of $1.5 million in the unique season-long qualifying format with the winner earning a prize check of $500,000.
Headlining the field and seeking her fifth LPGA title of the year is the 2012 Rolex Player of the Year Stacy Lewis. Currently No. 2 in the Rolex Rankings, Lewis secured top-player status last week at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex and Jalisco, earning enough points to circumvent Inbee Park’s reach. She becomes the first American to win the award since Beth Daniel in 1994.
The race for the Vare Trophy, which is given for the lowest scoring average, is still too close to call. Park currently leads Lewis by a tiny margin, with a 70.2 to 70.26 average respectively.
Park is also the frontrunner in the 2012 Official Money List by a wide margin, being the only player who has crossed the $2 million mark in season earnings. Lewis still has the chance to pass Park to capture the title should she claim the $500,000 first-place check. Park currently leads the tour in numerous statistical categories including putting average (28.25) and putts per GIR (1.72).
So Yeon Ryu of South Korea, who qualified for the CME Group Titleholders at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, will be honored at the Rolex Awards Celebration as the 2012 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year. She was easily the standout in this year’s rookie class, leading the tour in top-10 finishes with 15 in 23 appearances. She became the fifth Rolex First-Time Winner at the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic Presented by Kroger, Owens Corning and O-I.
Last year’s Rolex Player of the Year, Vare Trophy winner and three-time champ this season Yani Tseng of Taiwan also qualified to be in the field this week. Although she hit a rough patch during mid-season, Tseng still notched a few milestones in her career when she became the second-youngest player in LPGA history to record 15 victories and the fastest player to reach the $8 million mark in career earnings, taking just a little over four years and only 99 events.
Other headliners who qualified for the CME Group Titleholders are two-time winner Jiyai Shin of South Korea, LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer Karrie Webb of Australia, 2012 Wegmans LPGA Championship winner and Rolex Rankings No. 6 Shanshan Feng of China and two-time champ Suzann Pettersen of Norway.
Four other players join Feng and Ryu as Rolex First-Time Winners this week including teenage wunderkind Jessica Korda of Florida, Rolex Rankings No. 16 Azahara Munoz of Spain, No. 27 Brittany Lang of Texas and No. 10 Mika Miyazato of Japan.
The Titleholders name dates back to the Titleholders women’s golf tournament held from 1937 to 1966, and one additional year in 1972 in Southern Pines, N.C. The tournament was originally staged at Augusta Country Club in Augusta, Ga., prior to the formation of the LPGA in 1950. Past Titleholders champions include LPGA founders Patty Berg, Louise Suggs and Babe Zaharias.