It’s not an easy year to get noticed as a rookie on the LPGA tour this season. Usually, rookies stand out because they are good, young, and new. But the LPGA is full of good, young, and new. Breakout sensations like 19-year old Lydia Ko and 18-year-old Brooke Henderson (pictured above) seem to be the norm these days. And those girls aren’t rookies. 21-year-old Lexi Thompson is starting to look more and more like the seasoned old veteran out there.
With all of the talented youth on the LPGA, you might lose sight of how the actual rookies are doing this season. And that’s not good because the race to the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year is a big one. So then, let’s examine the real rookies and how they are stacking up this season.
First, understand that a player is considered a rookie even if she has played LPGA events as a non-member in previous years. Your LPGA career only starts when you have your card and play tournaments as a member. A few of this year’s new LPGA members have some valuable experience on other tours and on the LPGA as a nonmember but are still rookies. Others from the fresh batch of rookies are just as green as Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson were when they got started.
Let’s take it from the top. Korea’s 21-year old In Gee Chun is tearing it up. She is an experienced rookie. With three years of play on the Korean LPGA Tour- 5 victories last year as the leading money earner, it’s no surprise that Chun has had great results on the LPGA this season. Currently ranked 7th on the LPGA money list, Chun carded a second-place finish at the ANA and three other top fives. Oh yeah, and she won the US Women’s Open as a non-member last year… She might be hard to beat.
Then you have the 18-year old, no college necessary, American Megan Khang. The gal that took my qualifying spot to play in last year’s US Women’s Open (people don’t forget!) and then finished T35 as the low amateur there. Khang has snagged a T7, T11, and T4 this season to earn herself a spot at 39th on the official money list. Not too shabby.
Next up, Gaby Lopez from Mexico who played college golf for the Razorbacks. Lopez sits at 61st on the money list and has gone a steady 6 for 8 on cuts.
After Gaby, we have Australia’s Su Oh at 78th on the money list. This 19-year-old played last year on the Symetra Tour but earned her card with her T32 at the Final Stage of Q-school.
And then there is the pride of the 2015 Symetra Tour graduating class, Annie Park. Park is a college graduate of USC with an NCAA individual championship to her name. She has already garnered a top ten this season and I would not be surprised to see last year’s three-time Symetra Tour tournament winner (she only played eight Symetra events due to college… that’s near 50% success rate) keep getting better. I had the pleasure of having a few dinner conversations last year with Annie and her Mom. What a fun, kind Mom/caddie and player combo. The last time I saw Annie, she was planning a road trip up to a dance party in northern California!
And rounding out rookies inside the top 100 on the official money list are Symetra Tour favorites Rachel Rohanna, USA (99) and Lee Lopez, USA (100). No doubt these two hard workers are grinding for every stroke they can.
And those are your LPGA rookies who are making a splash so far this season. So next time you are tuning in to watch superstars Sei Young Kim and Lydia Ko… Don’t forget about the next generation.
Allie White from Lancaster, Ohio, is a professional golfer and golf journalist. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Journalism at Ohio University. With four years of experience on the Symetra Tour, a cut-made at the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open, and a 2016 Ohio Open Championship, White hopes to continue her golf career during her academic breaks.
My two biggest golf dreams are to play in Toledo Ohio’s LPGA event and to make it back to another US Open. I’m still hunting for that first hole in one!”