What we learned watching the LPGA & what to look forward to in 2021
The LPGA was in the golfing World spotlight the past few weeks with two of their most prestigious events being held in the month of December while the PGA Tour was mostly wrapped up for the 2020 calendar year.
First we had the 75th Women's U.S. Open held at Champions Golf Club in Houston, TX where South Korean A Lim Kim won in dramatic fashion by birdieing her last three holes to steal the trophy away from competitors Amy Olson and Hinako Shibuno who were battling it out in the final group on this Monday finish.
The very next week the LPGA headed to play the CME Globe Tour Championship at Greg Norman designed Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, FL. World #1 Jin Young Ko shot a dominating final round 66 to outlast challengers Sei Young Kim and Hannah Green.
As an avid golf fan, I enjoyed watching the top professional Women golfers and the re-scheduling of these two events highlighted the LPGA in a much deserved spotlight. The golf was great, entertaining, and a filled a gap in the PGA Tour schedule that gave golf enthusiasts like myself a real treat this December.
Now that I have spent hours on our couch watching the top Women's golfers compete in these prestigious events, what did I take away from the conclusion of the LPGA season?
So first, our hats need to go off to the LPGA for navigating through these challenging times. The challenges 2020 has brought everyone, but to find a way to play these tournaments and to get the golf spotlight was impressive.
Secondly, they had record purses this year! In the age where we are seeing million dollar checks awarded almost every week on the PGA tour it was great to see the USGA award $1 million to the winner of the US Open and the LPGA award $1.1 million to the winner of the CME Globe Tour Championship.
Lastly, the LPGA marketing is working. If you have not had a chance to visit www.lpga.com you must do so. Their Drive On Campaign highlights many of the stars of the game, and they are giving access to the top players on the LPGA. Many inspiring stories in video form that is worth watching this holiday season. In a time where there are endless options of sports, movies, and shows to be entertained by the LPGA has found a niche and is growing viewership, with TV viewership up 30% in 2020. Between the promotion of the golfers, the host courses, and working on TV deals, the Women's game deserves a pat on the back.
As we discussed on our latest podcast episode there are some challenges for the LPGA as they continue in to calendar year 2021.
First, the LPGA is truly a global and diverse tour. This is great, however, like we witnessed at the 2020 U.S. Open and the 2020 Open Championship non LPGA members won the Championships. Now I love a Cinderella story as much as any other golf fan. It was great to watch Sophia Popov's win at the 2020 Open Championship. However, if non LPGA members continue to win the largest events on the calendar this can become a challenge to build brand credibility and awareness . How can you claim to be the best tour if the golfers winning the most prestigious tournaments are not members of your tour? I'm not sure if there is an easy solution, but I hope we can see the Women's Major champions tee it up more frequently on the LPGA tour in 2021.
Secondly, I am looking for an American golfer to step up and challenge the likes of World #1 Jin Young Ko. There are currently 4 Americans in the top 20 of the Rolex World Rankings. We have Nelly Korda (4), Danielle Kang (5), Lexi Thompson (11) and Jennifer Kupcho (19). Being a U.S. based tour, I would love to see one of our own American golfers truly challenge the top golfers in the World.
If you did not catch any or much of the LPGA in 2020, you missed out. But don't worry, the LPGA plans for 2021 are shaping up to be even better. They have another year with record purses equalling $74.6 million, venues like The Olympic Club and Carnoustie on the Major Championship schedule, Solheim Cup in September, and a new Match Play Event in May. All exciting things to look forward too!
Even though you may not recognize all the names on the leaderboards of the LPGA events, I know you will enjoy the caliber of golf, the historic courses, and true competitiveness of the LPGA Tour. The LPGA Tour starts back up the third week of January, give it a try, you may be surprised on how much you will enjoy the golf!
Written by - Up to Par Podcast co-host: Mike Messerer