DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Nov. 21, 2022 – In a week that saw the announcement of a 2023 schedule that boasts a record-setting $101.4 million total purse, the LPGA Tour celebrated a 2022 season that saw 11 Rolex First-Time Winners, numerous purse increases and the continued growth of the world’s longest-running women’s professional sports organization.
Lydia Ko recorded a clean sweep of the season’s major awards, starting with her win at the CME Group Tour Championship and earning the $2 million winner’s check, the largest single prize in the history of women’s golf. She also earned Rolex Player of the Year honors, becoming the 15th different player to win the award at least twice, and earned her second consecutive Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average at 68.988. She is the 12th player in LPGA Tour history to win the award in consecutive seasons and the 15th player to win the trophy more than once. Her season-long scoring average is the second-lowest Vare Trophy-winning scoring average in Tour history, behind Annika Sorenstam's 68.70 in 2002.
“This year has been an incredible year. I really could never ask for more to win so early in the season and then to have won in Korea and then win the last event of the year,” said Ko, who is due to be married in a few weeks. “I couldn't have drawn it up any better. There has been so many exciting things in my life that's been going on. It will be my last win as a single lady. So I wanted to do this for my family. This has been one of the most consistent and solid years I've had.”
The annual LPGA Rolex Awards, held Thursday at the Ritz Carlton Naples, recognized the best and brightest stars and moments of the 2022 LPGA Tour season. Atthaya Thitikul, who took victories at the JTBC Classic presented by Barbasol and the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G, and who was No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings for two weeks in November, won the 2022 Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year award. Thitikul turned professional in 2020 after a stellar amateur career that saw her become the youngest person ever to win a professional tournament at the 2017 Ladies European Thailand Championship at 14 years, 4 months and 19 days. Prior to joining the LPGA Tour, Thitikul won the Race to Costa del Sol, Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year honors in 2021 on the Ladies European Tour.
Thitikul is the second consecutive player from Thailand to earn Rookie of the Year honors and third overall, joining Patty Tavatanakit (2021) and Moriya Jutanugarn (2013).
“It is an honor to receive the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year,” said Thitikul in her acceptance speech. “I am just a little girl who always had a dream to compete on the LPGA Tour. But to be on this stage here, in front of you guys, is a dream come true.”
Minjee Lee earned two elite honors during the 2022 season, highlighted by the Aon Risk Reward Challenge and its $1 million prize. The competition, which measured the performance of LPGA Tour and PGA TOUR golfers on a series of holes across multiple tournaments, tested players’ ability to analyze risk, utilize data-driven insights to identify opportunities and maximize performance in the moments that matter most. Lee joined PGA TOUR winner Scottie Scheffler in taking the Aon title, with both players receiving equal prize money.
“Over the course of the year there are Aon holes on every single event that we play,” said Lee, who won twice on Tour in 2022, including taking her second career major title at the U.S. Women’s Open presented by ProMedica. “So I think to be able to play aggressively on those holes and to play with confidence and obviously be making the right decision on those holes, I think it really helped me to obviously win at Founders and also the U.S. Open this year. I think, yeah, it's really fantastic.”
Lee also won the 2022 Rolex ANNIKA Major Award, which recognizes the player who has the most outstanding record in all five major championships during the LPGA Tour season. Along with her victory at the U.S. Women’s Open, Lee tied for second at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, was 12th at The Chevron Championship, tied for 43rd at the Amundi Evian Championship and tied for fourth at the AIG Women’s Open.
Elizabeth Nagel received the Heather Farr Perseverance Award, which honors an LPGA player who, through her hard work, dedication and love of the game of golf, has demonstrated determination, perseverance and spirit in fulfilling her goals as a player. In November 2012 while a junior at Michigan State University, Nagel was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. After undergoing surgery, Nagel was deemed cancer-free but still deals with the daily issues that arise from living without a thyroid.
Established in 1994, the Heather Farr Perseverance Award celebrates the LPGA Tour player who died on Nov. 20, 1993, following a four-and-a-half-year battle with breast cancer. Previous winners of this award include Heather Farr, Lorie Kane, Nancy Scranton, Brandi Burton, Kris Tschetter, Kim Williams, Beth Daniel, Se Ri Pak, Leta Lindley, Sophie Gustafson, Lisa Ferrero, Stephanie Meadow, Ariya Jutanugarn, Jessica Korda, Suzann Pettersen and Madelene Sagstrom.
“I represent the daily struggles we all face. Mine are things like adjusting to temperature and feeling a little bit foggy, but really, I represent all of the members of this Tour because we are all persevering through something. And our struggles do not define us, but they do show how strong we are,” said Nagel, who, like Farr, was diagnosed with cancer in her early 20s. “I’m honored to now also represent Heather because I’m lucky enough to still be here and tell our stories and to follow my stories on and off the golf course, something that was taken from her that we should never take for granted.
My story may be cancer when you look at the cover. But just like every woman on this Tour, when you read a little further, the things we overcome and are enduring every day to play on the LPGA are truly incredible. Our stories are all of strength and perseverance and spirit. I’ve never been more proud to say I play on the LPGA.”
In Gee Chun received the 2022 Founders Award, which is given to an LPGA Member who, in the opinion of her playing peers, best exemplifies the spirit, ideals and values of the LPGA through her behavior and deeds. The award has been given out since 1986, with a list of previous recipients that includes Kathy Whitworth, Nancy Lopez, Pat Bradley, Betsy King, Juli Inkster, Lorena Ochoa, Chella Choi, Juli Inkster, Karrie Webb, So Yeon Ryu, Brooke Henderson and Lydia Ko.
“To receive any award as a player on the LPGA is special. But this one is even more special because it is from the LPGA players who I have great respect and admiration for. When I was young, I wanted to play on the LPGA and to be on TV. After my dreams came true, I have had a great experience on the Tour, while making good friends and meeting fans from all over the world,” said Chun, the 2022 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship winner. “As much as I’m thankful, I think I also hold a sense of responsibility as a professional golfer. At some point, I thought to myself that my words and actions have an influence on those around me. So I wanted to show good energy and positive thoughts with as many people as I could. I want to continue to share good energy with more people in this moment and in the future.”
LPGA Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan selected Volunteers of America national president and CEO Mike King, who has spearheaded title sponsorship of the Tour’s stop in Dallas since 2015, as the recipient of the Commissioner’s Award. The award, introduced in 1991, honors a person or organization that has contributed uniquely to the LPGA and its Members, furthered the cause of women’s golf, and possesses character and standards of the highest order. Past recipients include KPMG, Jamie Farr, Rolex, the J.M. Smucker Company, Golf Channel and Judy Rankin.
“(Thank you) to everyone who is involved in some way with the LPGA. Your collective efforts on behalf of women’s equity in the world truly injects more positive energy and love back into the world,” said King, who accepted his award via video after testing positive for Covid-19 earlier in the week. “This literally makes the world a better place. That’s the real impact that’s had here. That’s the true mission of the LPGA and Volunteers of America and we’re both aligned in that mission – literally making the world a better place. I truly believe that’s the final result and that’s the collective result.”
Carol Preisinger, an LPGA Master Professional and Lead Teaching Professional at The Landings Club in Savannah, Ga., was honored as the recipient of the 2022 Ellen Griffin Rolex Award, which honors the best-known woman golf teacher in U.S. history. The award recognizes an individual, male or female, who has made a major contribution to the teaching of golf and who has demonstrated through teaching Griffin’s spirit, love and dedication to the golf student, teaching skills and game of golf. Preisinger opened her speech with a remembrance of the only lesson she received from Griffin while a student-athlete at the University of Georgia.
“She made time for me. She didn’t know who I was, but she made time for me. And to make time is to craft, to build, to create, to become,” said Preisinger. “And who knew I would be standing here tonight, becoming half the teacher Ellen Griffin was and to be here in her honor.”
The Rolex LPGA Awards also celebrated Rolex First-Time Winners Ashleigh Buhai (AIG Women’s Open), Gemma Dryburgh (TOTO Japan Classic), Ayaka Furue (Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open), Nanna Koerstz Madsen (Honda LPGA Thailand), Jennifer Kupcho (The Chevron Championship), Andrea Lee (Portland Classic), Leona Maguire (LPGA Drive On Championship at Crown Colony), Paula Reto (CP Women’s Open), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship), Maja Stark (ISPS Handa World Invitational presented by AVIV Clinics) and Thitikul (JTBC Classic presented by Barbasol). This season’s 11 total Rolex First-Time Winners joins the 1995 season for the most first-time winners in a single season.
On Friday, the LPGA Tour announced its 2023 schedule will comprise 33 official events, with a total official prize fund of $101.4 million, along with the biennial playings of the Solheim Cup and the Hanwha LIFEPLUS International Crown.