One of the season’s tightest points battles all season has been the one for the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award.
This week’s developments could produce big results, as second-place Hyo Joo Kim was forced to withdraw from the Blue Bay LPGA in China before the opening round due to an undisclosed injury. Fellow Republic of Korea star Sei Young Kim entered the $2 million event with just a 97-point lead over her namesake, but has a good chance to expand that with a solid four rounds.
Sei Young Kim, who has two wins in 2015, got off to a good start with a 2-under 70 and will likely pick up some valuable points on Sunday heading into the season’s final two events in Mexico and Florida. Third-place Minjee Lee carded a 2-over 74 and trails Sei Young Kim by 256 points.
Hyo Joo Kim’s withdrawal could effectively end her chances of hoisting one of the Tour’s top awards at the end of the season, unless she is able to make a major comeback during the final two events. A victory is worth 150 rookie points, while second place is good for 80, so both Hyo Joo Kim and Lee are still alive, but Sei Young Kim is certainly in the driver’s seat.
If either Kim wins the award, it will mark the third time in the last five years the Tour’s top rookie will have come from the Republic of Korea. Players from that golf-frenzied nation have won three of the past six Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honors and have earned the crown eight times overall, dating back to Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak in 1998.
World No. 1 Lydia Ko won the honor a year ago and is in position to add a Rolex Player of the Year award to her budding resume this year. Winning the top rookie award is often a sign of greater things to come, as eight players have gone on to win the Rolex Player of the Year title and 11 are now in the LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame.
This year’s awards ceremony will be a bittersweet occasion for whoever ends up as the award winner, as Hall of Famer Louise Suggs – for whom the award is named – passed away Aug. 7 at the age of 91. She will not be in Florida to present the award for the first time since it was named in her honor, but there’s little doubt Suggs will be smiling down on this year’s winner with pride.