NAPLES, FLA | From rookies to veterans, ten players will make their CME Group Tour Championship debuts on Thursday. Some have been working toward the top 60 their entire careers and some haven’t had a chance to let the moment sink in. Either way, with $2 million on the line, they’re all locked in and ready to win.
For Lilia Vu, this has been a long time coming. Three years ago, during her troubled rookie season, Vu never would have imagined making it to the final tournament of the year and teeing off at Tiburon. Now, Vu can see herself standing with the trophy in hand on Sunday.
“I think I was just so caught up in my own pressure trying to make cuts in my rookie year that I set the goal too low for me to even shoot for CME,” Vu said. “I had a better mindset this year. I was just trying my best at every tournament. Obviously, the goal is to try and win every tournament.”
Allisen Corpuz is one of seven rookies in the field at the CME Group Tour Championship. It’s been a whirlwind of a season for the 24-year-old and a better first season on the tour than she imagined.
“It’s been a great rookie year, really had a lot of fun out here,” Corpuz said. “It’s really nice to just be at the Tour Championship, it kind of feels unreal. I was just trying to play as well as I could. CME was definitely on my list, but I really didn’t know how the year would go. Really happy to be here.”
Another rookie that will join Corpuz this week is Maja Stark. The significance of playing at the CME Group Tour Championship hasn’t quite sunk in yet for the Swede. In fact, before her win at the ISPS Handa World Invitational presented by AVIA Clinics awarded her LPGA membership, Stark hadn’t given the final tournament of the year much thought.
“I didn’t know that much about the CME, just that it was the finals,” Stark said with a smile. “I didn’t know that it was just the top 60 that got to play. So, I’m happy to have the bonus.
“It feels like a normal tournament. I don’t think it has dawned on me how much money we’re playing for.”
Gemma Dryburgh, who punched her ticket to the final tournament of the year with her win at the TOTO Japan Classic just a few weeks ago, has been itching to play at Tiburon Golf Course since she joined the tour in 2018.
“It’s surreal,” Dryburgh said of her emotions when she arrived in Naples. “I’ve always watched it on TV for I don't know how long, so it’s just surreal being here actually playing in it. It feels really special to have all the hard work pay off to get to this final event.”
Now that they’ve all checked the CME Group Tour Championship off their list, the goal for all the newbies is to win. And everyone, making their debut or not, is in awe of the money within their grasp while dreaming about ways to spend all that cash.
Vu wants to buy a new car. She’s been whipping around in a 2009 Mercedes-Benz C300 since college and it’s time for an upgrade. This week’s winner’s check would get her a new ride and then some.
“I’ve been wanting a car for a while,” Vu said wistfully. “I was home last week, and I was driving in the rain and my windshield wiper broke off my car. I had to stop on the freeway, and it was just pouring rain. I dinged that car up pretty badly in college, t-boned, lights don’t work, check engine light’s on.”
When Dryburgh won in Japan she didn’t just get a trophy and a check, she got a premium TOTO toilet, too. But unfortunately, the Scotswoman is renting and had to ask the tournament to hold the pot for her until she gets her own home. So, it’s easy to guess what she wants to buy with the $2 million winner’s check.
“Probably a house, try and get the toilet in there,” Dryburgh laughed. “That’s the goal really, get a house to put the toilet in.”