NAPLES, FLORIDA, Nov. 17, 2012 – The 18th fairway at the CME Group Titleholders was transformed into a Kia dealership on Saturday afternoon as the winners of the first-annual Kia Performance Awards took ownership of 2013 Optima Limited midsize sedans following third-round play. LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan and Ashley Lord of Kia were on hand to present Stacy Lewis, Brittany Lincicome, Inbee Park and Angela Stanford with Kia keys for their accomplishments in statistical, performance and community categories detailed below.
"As the Kia brand continues its efforts to grow and advance value to new levels of sophistication, sports marketing initiatives such as our involvement with the LPGA have raised awareness and consideration for the brand and our vehicles," said Tim Chaney, executive director, marketing & communications, KMA. "We are pleased to offer the Optima Limited, the most refined and premium product offering to date, to the winners for their outstanding performances."
Stacy Lewis clinched the Kia Drive to the Top, awarded to the player with the most top-10 finishes, with 15 top-10 finishes in 22 tournaments played through the Mizuno Classic in Japan, which served as the cutoff. Lewis is in the midst of a career-best season with four victories at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic, ShopRite LPGA Classic, Navistar LPGA Classic and Mizuno Classic. The 27-year-old had top-eight finishes in three of the four major championships this season including runner-up at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. She also added ties for second at the Evian Masters and the season-opening ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, where she lost in a six-way playoff. Lewis is second on the LPGA Official Money List and also became the first American since 1994 to win the Rolex Player of the Year award on Friday.
“The top-10s were really a goal for me coming into the year,” Lewis said. “I’d rather play more consistent out here than win every week. It keeps you emotions in check and it’s just a whole lot easier. It’s just a bonus to walk away with a car and Kia has been such a great sponsor for our tour.”
Brittany Lincicome lived up to her “Bam Bam” nickname in winning the Kia Power Drive, awarded to the player with the longest driving average in 2012. The long-hitting Floridian averaged 275.2 yards per drive on the year, nearly five yards more than Lexi Thompson in second place. Lincicome has never finished outside of the top-three in driving distance dating back to her rookie season in 2004, when she topped the list with an average of 270 yards.
“I’ve been on the tour for 8 years now and I’ve always said they should give an award for the longest drive because it’s something that I’m really good at,” Lincicome said. “You hit for show, putt for dough is the saying. I wish I was more consistent with my putting but driving is what I love to do. It’s really cool that Kia is stepping up this year and giving an award for what I do best.”
Inbee Park earned the Kia Most Compelling Performance, awarded to a player with an exceptional performance and voted on by fans at LPGA.com, for her dominant summer that included nine consecutive top-10 finishes, a victory, more than $1.5 million in earnings, and a 19-spot improvement on the Rolex Rankings over a 14 week period. The credentials for Park’s nomination began with a tie for ninth at the Wegmans LPGA Championship in early June and ended with a runner-up finish at the RICOH Women’s British Open in mid-September. During that span, the South Korean earned $1,541,206 – which alone would put her third on the 2012 LPGA Official Money List – and carded six top-three finishes including a victory at the Evian Masters. That run also included runner-up finishes at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic, where she lost in a four-way playoff, the Safeway Classic, the CN Canadian Women’s Open, where she earned first-place money following a victory by amateur Lydia Ko, and the British Open. Following the close for nominations, Park added a victory at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia and a runner-up finish at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship. She is poised to win the 2012 LPGA Official Money List with more than $2.2 million in earnings.
“I thank Kia for the wonderful award,” Park said. “I’m really honored that I actually that I won this competition against so many other great players. I think everything just started working after the middle of the season. I’m just happy that it wasn’t too late.”
Other nominees in the Kia Most Compelling Performance category included Jessica Korda, who became a Rolex First-Time Winner in a six way playoff at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open; Yani Tseng, who won back-to-back tournaments at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup and the Kia Classic; Stacy Lewis, for winning the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic and ShopRite LPGA Classic to take over as top American; and Jiyai Shin, who defeated Paula Creamer in a nine-hole, two-day playoff at the Kingsmill Championship to win for the first time since 2010.
Angela Stanford is the winner of the Kia Community Assist, which recognizes a player who makes exceptional contributions to charity organizations or community programs, for her work with the Angela Stanford Foundation. Since 2009, the Angela Stanford Foundation has supported Texas children and young adults by providing college scholarships for students whose families have been affected by cancer. As part of the Foundation, Stanford hosts an annual Let Your Light Shine night golf tournament, which in 2011 grossed $118,110 in scholarship funding as well as donations to the Lena Pope Home, which helps children in need in Greater Fort Worth, Texas, and the First Tee of Fort Worth.
“I have to say it’s pretty cool and when I say that, I’m thinking of all the people in Fort Worth who put all the time and effort into it,” Stanford said. “I think about them and I think about all the hours they’ve put in the foundation and the kids that we get to reach because of this. For me it’s about everybody else.
I think Kia has been a great partner and for them to go above and beyond for this is pretty cool,” she continued. “As a player, being out here for 12 years, it’s nice to have partners that care. It’s pretty cool because I have a lot of passion for my Tour and to see our sponsors have that is awesome.”
In addition to sponsoring the Kia Performance Awards, Kia is also the Official Automotive Partner of the LPGA, title sponsor of the Kia Classic and Official Tournament Vehicle for eight LPGA events.