Same time last year I wrote: “LPGA Ends 2015 on a High.” This year I have to say that the 2016 LPGA season ends beyond expectations. Credit goes first to all the women on the LPGA Tour who played impressive golf all season. But second, credit goes to LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan for his vision of just how high women’s golf can go… and how to get there. Here’s a short recap of the season’s grand finale.
CME Group Tour Championship. The season officially ended Sunday, November 20 with the final round at the Greg Norman designed Tiburon Golf Club – Ritz-Carlton Resort in Naples Florida. The winner was Charley Hull of England. It was her first win on the LPGA Tour, and along with a trophy, she takes home a check for $500,000. Hull, age 20, has also won on the Ladies European Tour (the LET). Followers of the 2015 Solheim Cup, may recall that Hull was Suzann Pettersen’s partner in that unforgettable “non-conceded” putt incident that inspired Team USA to victory. See Amy Rogers’ CME Group Tour Championship wrap-up article.
But even more was at stake in this final CME Globe tournament because a player’s score – even if not first — also determined other awards. Here are the other contests and winners:
Race to the CME Globe – This is the season-long competition or “race” that awards points to players based on their performance and the type of tournament. The winner of the Race to the CME Globe was Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn.
LPGA Player of the Year (sometimes referred to as the Rolex Player of the Year) was also won by Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn. Jutanugarn’s finish in the CME Globe – tied for fourth – earned her important “LPGA Player of the Year” points. The LPGA Player of the Year calculation is different from the calculations used for the World Rolex Rankings. (I know; it’s confusing.) Ariya’s final score in the CME Globe was three strokes better than Ko’s score which may have been key in determining the winner.
The Vare Trophy is awarded to the player with the lowest scoring average during the season in a stipulated number of tournaments, which includes the CME Globe. The 2016 Vare Trophy winner was a rookie player on the Tour, In Gee Chun of Korea, with a 69.583 scoring average for the year, edging out Lydia Ko by 0.013. If Ko had played slightly better, she might have carried home the Vare Trophy. To read, see http://www.lpga.com/news/in-gee-chun-wins-2016-vare-trophy-and-rolex-rookie-of-the-year. The Vare Trophy is named after Glenna Collett Vare (1903-1989) a famous amateur women golfer who earned popularity and fame in tournaments well before the LPGA Tour was established in 1950. I am very fond of this advice by Vare about the qualities needed for match play:
“Love of combat, serenity of mind and fearlessness.”
It’s no wonder the Vare Trophy is considered by many LPGA players to be the most prestigious award.
LPGA Tour Players Awards: Two LPGA awards at the end of the season are based on votes by LPGA players. They are not about how well a player performed on the course but about personal qualities they demonstrate and what they have “given back” to the game. This year’s winners are Karrie Webb of Austraila and Arija Jutanugarn. Both players offer inspiration to all golfers.
Ellen Griffin Rolex Award is awarded to a female or male who has made a contribution to the teaching of golf. Ellen Griffin is regarded as the best-known women golf teacher in the history of women’s golf. The 2016 winner was Pia Nilsson, known by many for her VISION54 teaching concept and the role she played in the achievements of her star pupil, Annika Sorenstam. I recommend a book by Mona Vold published in 1999 and still available: “Different Strokes: The Lives and Teachings of the Games Wisest Women.” The author vividly describes the role of Ellen Griffin and the early days of female golf instruction – a great read regardless of how long you have played golf or how well you score.
The Commissioner’s Award was awarded to Wakefern Food Corporation, the title sponsor of the ShopRite LPGA Classic played in New Jersey since 1991. This award is very personal for me because ShopRite is a large grocery store company in New Jersey where I lived for many years. I can’t begin to count how many times I shopped there and how much I contributed to the LPGA prize money. A personal “thank you” to the owners of ShopRite and all the sponsors of the LPGA.
The LPGA 2016 season was indeed beyond expectations – and I never even mentioned the Olympics. The success is due to great female golfers and also to the LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan who sets no limits to his strategic vision. I was fortunate to ask the Commissioner a few questions about what’s next for 2017, and I’ll share those with you in December here on WomensGolf.com and on my site, NancyBerkley.com.
Nancy Berkley is an expert on women’s golf and junior-girls golf in the U.S. A special interest of hers is encouraging business women to enjoy golf with colleagues and clients. Nancy is a member of the World Golf Foundation Women’s Committee and a member of the National Golf Foundation. Nancy is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Harvard University, Rutgers Law School and has a degree from the Professional Management Program of Harvard Business School.
Describing herself as a good bogey golfer with permanent potential, Nancy shares news about women’s golf – along with her opinions on berkleygolfconsulting.com and nancyberkley.com. You can also follow Nancy on Facebook and Twitter.
Feature image credit: LPGA players Lydia Ko of New Zealand and Ariya Juntanugarn of Thailand with LPGA commissioner, Mike Whan. Courtesy of LPGA. Peggy Kirk Bell