Lydia Ko has two million reasons to celebrate her ninth season on the LPGA Tour. She capped off the year by being named Player of the Year, she took home the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average of the season, topped the money list, and won the first of its kind $2 million winner’s check for capturing the CME Group Tour Championship.
“To be the Player of the Year and to win the Vare Trophy again and to win the CME Group Tour Championship, it's a dream come true,” Ko said on Sunday. “To be able to do it in front of family and my team, you know, it's a very special one.”
Ko’s award sweep caps one of the 25-year old’s most impressive seasons on the LPGA Tour. The Kiwi won three times, including for the first time in her native Korea, and pointed to her personal and professional growth for her success in 2022.
Ko was one of five players along with Jennifer Kupcho, Brooke Henderson, Minjee Lee, and Atthaya Thitikul, who won multiple times over the course of a season that was full of parity and punctuated by a record-tying 11 Rolex First-Time Winners.
Ko, Lee, Henderson, and Thitikul were all in the hunt for the Player of the Year. And while the season’s top honor ultimately went to Ko, it was Lee, the U.S. Women’s Open champion, who came away with the Rolex Annika Major Award for the most consistent performance in the five majors. Lee was also named winner of the Aon Risk Reward Challenge and took home its $1 million prize.
Thitikul was one of those first-time winners. She won twice in her rookie season and spent a one-week stint at No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings. Her standout season also saw her contend for the Rolex Player of the Year and the Vare Trophy. The young Thai’s season culminated by winning the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honor.
It’s been a decade since Ko became a first-time winner on the LPGA Tour and since joining the Tour in 2014, at the age of 16, Ko has grown right along with it.
Ko’s rookie season featured a $56 million purse with 32 events. Last week, the Tour unveiled its 2023 schedule with a record-breaking purse of more than $100 million with 33 official tournaments, plus the Hanwah LifePlus International Crown and the 18th edition of the Solheim Cup.
Next season’s eye-popping purse is due in large part to the five major championships - the Chevron Championship, U.S. Women’s Open presented by ProMedica, KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, Amundi Evian Championship, and AIG Women’s Open - which continue to edge each other forward with unprecedented growth and make up $37.9 million of the 2023 purse. And next year, the majors will test the world’s best on the game’s premier venues, many for the first time.
In April, the Chevron Championship will be staged at its new home outside Houston at The Club at Carlton Woods. In June, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship will head to Baltusrol Golf Club for the first time and in July the U.S. Women’s Open will make its debut at Pebble Beach Golf Links. In August, the AIG Women’s Open will make its maiden visit to Walton Heath.
In addition to the return of the International Crown for the first time since 2018, the Tour also welcomes a new tournament to the schedule with the Mizuho Women’s Open at Liberty National Golf Club in June.
There is much to celebrate in looking back at what the world’s best achieved over this past season on the LPGA Tour, in which 26 different players found the winner’s circle with nearly a dozen of them winning for the very first time. Even with the competition that deep, there was one player who stood above the rest, and that was Lydia Ko.
The LPGA Tour takes an eight week break before kicking off the 2023 season in mid-January with the winners-only Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club. It’s the beginning of what is sure to be a thrilling season with 100 million reasons to celebrate.