When Ariya Jutanugarn won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open back in August she achieved something that only eight other players have ever done in the 66-year history of the LPGA. She surpassed two million dollars in LPGA prize money during a single season.
Jutanugarn ($2,270,741) and Lydia Ko ($2,417,989) have both topped the $2 million mark this year, and there are a few other players, including young Canadian sensation Brooke Henderson, that could also reach $2 million with strong finishes in the few remaining events of the season. Henderson currently sits in third place on the money list with just over $1.6 million in earnings.
As you might expect, Annika Sorenstam became the first player on the LPGA to make more than $2 million in a single season. She did it first in 2001 and then followed that achievement over four more consecutive years (‘02, ‘03, ‘04, ‘05) before retiring at the end of the 2008 season when she was 38 years old. She is still the leader in career money earnings with over 22 million dollars. During her 15 years on the tour, Annika won 72 times on the LPGA. Her best single-season earnings mark came in 2002 when she won over $2.8 million.
Lorena Ochoa holds the record for the most money ever won in a single season. She did it in 2007 when she vaulted past Sorenstam to become the number 1 player in the world in the Rolex Rankings. She won a remarkable 8 LPGA events in 2007 and became the first (and still only) player on the LPGA to ever make more than $4 million in a single season ($4,364,994). She also is still the only player to surpass $3 million in one season. The Mexican star surprised the golf world when she retired in 2010 at the age of just 28, and at the peak of her career, after only eight seasons on the LPGA.
Here is the list of the nine LPGA players who have made more than two million dollars in a single season, with the years they did it in parentheses.
Annika Sorenstam (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005)
Lorena Ochoa (2006, 2007, 2008)
Karrie Webb (2006)
Yani Tseng (2011)
Inbee Park (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)
Suzann Pettersen (2013)
Stacy Lewis (2014)
Lydia Ko (2014, 2015, 2016)
Ariya Jutanugarn (2016)
Players competing on the LPGA now have a lot more earning potential than they did a few years ago. That is thanks in large part to Commissioner Mike Whan. In 2010, his first year as the head of the LPGA, the tour was struggling to keep sponsors and was losing events. There were only 23 events on an anemic schedule that year (down from 34 in 2008), and the total purse money had dropped to under $42 million. Whan has brought new events and more purse money to the LPGA. This year the tour has now grown back to 34 events with total purse money exceeding $64 million (a record number for the tour). The prize money still pales in comparison to that being played for by the men on the PGA Tour, but the growth is still impressive.
This season nine players have already earned more than one million dollars. That number could be in the teens by the end of the year. As long as the tour remains healthy, with a full schedule and substantial purses, many more current players on the tour will have the chance to add their names to the list of nine others that have reached the $2 million mark in a single year.
Over time, a few of the better young players on the LPGA will also have a chance to catch Annika Sorenstam who still remains the leader in career money earnings with $22,573,192.
Here is a link that shows the career tournament earnings of every current and former LPGA player.
Dave Andrews is a retired television news reporter. He is also an avid golfer who has become a fan of the LPGA and the Symetra Tour.
Dave is the author of Pops and Sunshine, a novel and screenplay about a young woman pro’s dream and struggles to make it to the LPGA. The screenplay has been optioned by a production company in Hollywood. The novel is available at Kindle Ebooks.
Follow Dave online on Twitter @PopsandSunshine