The LPGA Tour is stateside again and the LPGA Drive On Championship marks the start of a five month stretch in the states for the tour. This weekend’s competition at Superstition Mountain and Country Club is also a highly anticipated return to the desert for the Tour, having not played in Arizona since the 2019 Cognizant Founders Cup.
Elevated Fan Experience
To celebrate the Tour’s return to Arizona, the LPGA Drive On Championship will offer a number of new fan experiences. The 19th Hole Beer Garden, located near the driving range, will feature DJs and flat screen TVs that will broadcast both the tournament coverage and some March Madness. There are also souvenir cups for fans to take home at the “You Glow Girl” concession stand at the 17th hole.
First Full Field
The LPGA Drive On Championship is also the first full field event of the season, complete with 144 players, two Monday qualifiers – Yaeeun Hong and Celine Herbin – and a $1.75 million purse. World No. 2 Nelly Korda tops that list alongside two-time HSBC Women’s World Championship winner Jin Young Ko. Lexi Thompson will also make her first start of 2023 at Superstition Mountain this weekend.
This weekend’s festivities will also see a number of rookies making their first starts. Epson Tour graduate Lucy Li is set to make her debut as a full-fledged LPGA Tour player after racking up two top 10 finishes on the Tour last season. Fellow graduates Xiaowen Yin, Kiira Riihijarvi, Grace Kim, Celine Borge, Gabriella Then, Yan Liu and Hyo Joon Jang will also make their debuts as LPGA Tour players this week. There are also some Q-Series graduates, like Alexa Pano and Bailey Tardy, that will tee it up for the first time on tour this week as LPGA rookies. Tardy also competed in Arizona last week at the Epson Tour’s Carlisle Arizona Women’s Golf Classic, just a short 20 miles from Superstition Mountain.
A Rich History at Superstition
The Tour has a lot of memories at Superstition Mountain, which hosted the Safeway Invitational from 2004-2008. Annika Sorenstam (2004, 2005), Juli Inkster (2006) and Lorena Ochoa (2007, 2008) have all claimed titles at the club, making it well known among LPGA fans and players. The club has continued to champion women’s golf and whopping 40% of Superstition Mountain membership is female, which includes LPGA stars Carlota Ciganda, Jennifer Kupcho and Anna Nordqvist to name a few.
Unique Event, Unique Defending Champion
This year marks the fifth playing of the LPGA Drive On Championship, which was created as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With its first two iterations in 2020, the tournament saw Danielle Kang and Ally Ewing hoist the trophy and Austin Ernst followed in 2021. The tournament started anew in 2022, expunging all its previous records, and saw Leona Maquire become the first player from Ireland to win on tour. After Ko successfully defended her title at the HSBC Women’s World Championship a few weeks ago, it would be unsurprising to see Maguire do the same. The Irishwoman has been itching for her second career win since the end of 2022. In her last five starts on Tour, Maguire has yet to finish outside the top 20. The 28-year-old has not lost any steam since her runner up result at the CME Group Tour Championship and, with so many good memories from last year to fuel her, Maguire is a likely candidate for a win in Arizona.