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In 1950, the dreams and aspirations of many female golfers became a reality with the founding of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). Decades later, the Tour has far exceeded the original vision of the founding members. As the LPGA continues to grow and thrive, let's discover some remarkable factors about the Tour!
History of the LPGA Tour and its origin?
The Ladies Professional Golf Association, also known as the LPGA, first came into being in 1950 at the Rolling Hills Country Club in Wichita, Kansas. Envisioning a top-notch professional tour for female golfers. Thirteen legendary women came together to lay the foundation stone for the organization. Patty Berg, one of the founders and a professional golfer herself, also took over as the first President of the LPGA. In its first ten years, the LPGA witnessed steady growth, going from 14 to 26 events. The prize money for the tournaments also saw a great rise as it jumped from $50,000 to an incredible $200,000.
The organization's current headquarters is situated at the LPGA International Golf Club in Daytona Beach, Florida. Mollie Marcoux Samaan was appointed as the ninth commissioner of the LPGA Tour in 2021. ?An extremely passionate advocate for women in sport, Samaan had won the prestigious Otto Von Kienbusch Sportswoman of the Year Award during her time at Princeton University.
Other countries also boast their very own LPGAs, but the American organization is the first and most popular among the lot.
The rapid growth of tournaments under the LPGA Tour
Over the seven decades since it was founded, the LPGA Tour has grown by massive leaps and bounds. The number of events has gone up, and so have the prize purses for these tournaments. Per its 2023 schedule, female golfers will compete for a record-breaking $101.4 million in official purses across 33 official events.
There are five esteemed tournaments that make up the majors of women's professional golf. These are the U.S. Women's Open, Women's PGA Championship, Chevron Championship, Women's British Open, and Evian Championship.? The U.S. Women's Open is the oldest of the lot, coming into existence in 1946. Back in the day, the du Maurier Classic, held in Canada, lost its major status following the passing of strict restrictions on tobacco advertising in the host country. Consequently, the Women's British Open was elevated to the status of a major tournament. Meanwhile, the Evian Championship, which is held in France, became the fifth LPGA Tour major in 2013.
The most successful golfers in the history of the LPGA Tour
Since its inception, the LPGA Tour has seen many legends of the sport pick up countless trophies. In the 1960s, Mickey Wright and Kathy Whitworth won a total of 121 tournaments between them. The 1980s saw many stars from outside America winning top honors on the LPGA Tour.
The 1990s bore witness to the rapid rise of Sweden's Annika Sorenstam, who won a total of 18 trophies during those years. Her blistering form continued into the next decade as well, with Sorenstam becoming the first-ever LPGA Tour player to record a single-round 59, a feat she achieved in the? 2001 season. Four years later, the Swedish golfer won her eighth Rolex Player of the Year Award, breaking Whitworth's record of 7 wins. She has also picked up ten major titles in her career, five less than Patty Berg, who holds the record for the most number of major wins.
Sorenstam also holds the record for the lowest scoring average at 68.697, which she recorded in 2002. She has won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average six times, one less than Kathy Whitworth.
Some of the most notable faces on the LPGA Tour currently are Inbee Park, Nelly Korda, and Lydia Ko, among others. An LPGA legend, Park won 7 major titles between 2008 and 2015. New Zealand's Lydia Ko has won 2 majors so far and even picked up the Vare Trophy in 2021 and 2022. Nelly Korda, who won the KPMG Women's PGA Championship in 2021, has spent a significant amount of time on top of the world rankings in her career.
The road to the LPGA Tour
The Epson Tour, also called the "Road to the LPGA," is the Official Qualifying Tour of the LPGA Tour. Since 1999, the aim of this tour has been to hone the skills of the world's best young women professional golfers. It hosts 20+ events with over $3 million at stake to prepare these women for a carrier in the LPGA Tour.
Epson Tour players have achieved formidable success in the LPGA Tour, with over 400 LPGA titles, including majors, being claimed by them. Additionally, almost 150 alums from the Tour have nabbed the LPGA Tour membership since the process of awarding Tour cards kicked off in 1999.
Some of the most notable Epson Tour players who have gone on to become big names in the LPGA Tour include 27-time winner Loren Ochoa, Olympic gold medallist Nelly Korda, and major winners Brooke Henderson and Mo Martin, among others.
The differences between the LPGA Tour and the PGA Tour
Just like the PGA Tour, the LPGA Tour attracts the best golfers in the world to play highly competitive golf every week. However, stark differences exist between the two factions. For example, the courses for women tend to be a bit shorter than the courses for men.
Prize purses on both tours hugely vary as well. The 38 PGA Tour stops being held on the PGA Tour in 2023 have a combined purse of $460,000,000. In comparison, the LPGA is giving away a sum total of $101.4 million in prize money this year. Another notable difference is that the LPGA has five majors while the PGA has 4.
In the past, six women have crossed over to the PGA Tour, with only one making the cut. That would be none other than the great Babe Didrikson Zaharias.
In 2020, the European Tour and Ladies European Tour together formed the Scandinavian mixed, bringing together 78 men and 78 women to compete in the same tournament for the same winner's payout.
The LPGA Tour's initiatives to promote women's golf
Established in 1991, the LPGA Foundation aims to improve the lives of women and girls through the game of golf. This foundation organizes and maintains several junior golf programs across the country. There are also lucrative scholarships set in place for up-and-coming female golfers, including the Dinah Shore Scholarship, the Marilynn Smith Scholarship, the Phyllis G. Meekins Scholarship, and the Goldie Bateson Scholarship. The major golf for juniors under the LPGA Foundation is the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf. Over its two-decades-long history, the program has empowered more than 300,000 women through the game of golf.
The generation of revenue by the LPGA Tour
The LPGA Tour may lag behind the PGA Tour in terms of prize money and sponsors, but things are steadily picking up pace. In 2022, the LPGA Tour gave away $93.5 million in prize money across all events. The figure witnessed an 18 percent increase next year, coming up to over $100 million. Sponsors have also stepped up their games as more and more people express their interest in watching their favorite female pros in action.
The Chevron Championship, one of the five majors and a joint venture between the LPGA Tour and event operator IMG boasts 16 sponsors in total. Some of them include LPGA partners Aon, CME Group, and Rolex. Another one of LPGA Tour's most notable sponsors is the multinational technology company, Cognizant. KPMG has also been a long-time sponsor of the Tour, and even backs the Women's PGA Championship major.
The Women's World Golf Rankings
The Women's World Golf Rankings, known as the Rolex Rankings for sponsorship purposes, was introduced in February 2006. After its inception, Annika Sorenstam became the first World No. 1. Later, Loren Ochoa went on to hold the topmost position for an incredible 158 consecutive weeks.
The criteria of the Rolex Rankings are very similar to that of the Official World Golf Rankings used in men's golf. Golfers acquire points for each decent finish on the relevant tours, with the number of points available in each event being contingent on the strength of the field, as determined by the competitors' existing rankings. For instance, the presence of the No. 1 ranked player adds more points toward the strength of the field than No. 25.
The higher the strength of the field, the more points the winner gets, and the greater the number of players who attain world-ranking points, depending on their finish. It is crucial to note that these points retain their total value for a period of 13 weeks. Next, they continue to depreciate over the following 91 weeks in equal installments until they come off entirely.
The history of the LPGA Tour's international expansion
In 1956, the LPGA Tour hosted its first event outside of the USA in Havana, Cuba. Known as the Havana Open, the tournament took place at the Biltmore Country Club, with Louise Suggs winning the top prize. Since then, the LPGA Tour has taken great steps toward expanding its global footprint.
2019 saw 12 of the Tour's 32 events being hosted in countries outside of America. The number increased to 14 the following year. This starkly contrasts with the PGA Tour, which rarely ventures out of American soil for events. In recent years, the LPGA Tour and the Ladies European Tour (LET) have together taken significant steps towards scaling up both circuits.
It is safe to say that the LPGA Tour will continue to take even greater strides toward its development as the years go on.