Vu and Thitikul earn season-ending honors for first time in their Tour careers
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Nov. 19, 2023 – The LPGA Tour announced today that Lilia Vu earned the 2023 Rolex Player of the Year award and Atthaya Thitikul the Vare Trophy following their fourth- and fifth-place finishes, respectively, at the CME Group Tour Championship. Vu is the first American to be the Rolex Player of the Year since Stacy Lewis in 2014, and is the 26th different player to earn the award since its inception in 1966. Thitikul is the 34th different winner of the Vare Trophy and the second player from Thailand to earn the honor, joining Ariya Jutanugarn (2018).
Entering the Tour’s season finale, the race for POTY honors came down to Vu and Celine Boutier. Vu had the most chances of winning following her victory at The ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican. Boutier had to win the CME Group Tour Championship and have Vu finish eighth or worse to win outright. If Boutier won and Vu finished eighth, both players would have tied with 199 points, and each would have received the Rolex Player of the Year Award. Boutier ultimately finished T16 at the CME Group Tour Championship, making Vu the newest POTY.
Along with her win at The ANNIKA at the start of November, Vu’s remarkable 2023 Tour season included three additional victories and three additional top-10 results. The 26-year-old became a Rolex First-Time Winner at the Honda LPGA Thailand, and won her maiden major title two months later at The Chevron Championship in its first year at The Club at Carlton Woods. In August, Vu won her second major championship at the AIG Women’s Open, where she became the first American to win two majors in a single season since Juli Inkster in 1999 and ascended to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings for the first time in her career. The victory also secured Vu the Rolex ANNIKA Major Award, which she accepted this past week at the Rolex LPGA Awards.
Vu also made her debut for the U.S. Team at the 2023 Hanwha LIFEPLUS International Crown in May and the U.S. Solheim Cup Team at Finca Cortesin this past September.
I think it's been unreal for that to happen,” said Vu of winning the award. “I think last year I was telling Cole [my caddie] on the last hole, I remember after the last round, last hole, I just broke down in tears. I was just really hard on myself. I was definitely hard on myself this year, too, but much nicer. Came in with no expectations and tried to win every tournament that I played in. Just kept my goals really small, and I think that really helped me achieve Player of the Year.”
Thitikul won the 2023 Vare Trophy for recording the season’s lowest scoring average of 69.533. It is the 13th-lowest Vare Trophy-winning scoring average in the award’s history, tying Stacy Lewis’ 69.53 from 2014. She is the first player in the award’s history to win the Vare Trophy without earning a victory in the same year.
Following The ANNIKA, four players recorded scoring averages below 70, with Thitikul leading Hyo Joo Kim by only 0.013 strokes. Kim needed to average 69.432 strokes per round at the CME Group Tour Championship to pass Thitikul. Jin Young Ko ranked third at the start of the week and needed an average score of 65.080, but withdrew prior to the third round at Tiburon Golf Club, therefore eliminating her from the Vare Trophy race, as she needed to complete all four rounds to get to the threshold of 70 rounds needed to qualify for the award. Xiyu Lin ranked fourth, and needed to record an average score of 64.594 to pass Thitikul this week.
Heading into the final day of the 2023 LPGA Tour season, Kim could have potentially passed Atthaya with a 64 or better, but ended Sunday with a final-round 68, leaving her with a season-long scoring average of 69.628.
Thitikul earned a Tour-leading 13 top-10 finishes this season, including two runner-up performances at The Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America and the Maybank Championship. She also was a member of the winning Thailand Team at the 2023 Hanwha LIFEPLUS International Crown in her first appearance.
In 2022, Thitikul became a Rolex First-Time Winner at the JTBC Classic presented by Barbasol and added a second Tour victory at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G. She also was the second-consecutive player from Thailand to earn the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award last season, clinching the honor with two events left in the year.
“You know what? I had no idea I was going to win the Vare Trophy, to be honest. Like I mention, in the middle of the season I played really bad. I mean, missed two cut in the major events and then also not playing quite good in the middle of the year,” said Thitikul. “I think what it really mean for me when I just bounce back from [being] really uncomfortable and I don't have any confidence there during that time. It's just like really happy that I go over it, go past it, overcome it.”
The prestigious Rolex Player of the Year award was introduced to the LPGA in 1966. LPGA Tour players are awarded points at each official LPGA tournament based on top-10 finishes with the top points earner taking home the honor each year. Points are doubled at each of the LPGA Tour's five major championships – The Chevron Championship, the KPMG Women's PGA Championship, the U.S. Women's Open, the Amundi Evian Championship and the AIG Women's Open.
The Vare Trophy was presented to the LPGA by Betty Jameson in 1952, in honor of the great American player Glenna Collett Vare. Vare Trophy scoring averages are computed on the basis of a Member’s total yearly score in Official Tournaments divided by the number of official rounds she played during a season.