There are 28 rookies preparing to tee it up this year on the LPGA tour. Traditionally rookies have a hard time making cuts and earning enough money to keep their playing status for the following season. It is a big step up to play at the highest level in women’s golf.
Of the 28 rookies this year about 15 of them will get enough playing opportunities to have a realistic shot of making enough money to automatically return to the tour in 2015. If history is any guide, perhaps five or six of them will get that job done. Here is a look at three rookies in 2014 that appear to have what it takes to enjoy long successful careers on the LPGA.
One “Sure Thing” and Two Other Rookies to Watch for on the LPGA in 2014
Arguably the most remarkable teenage golfer in the history of women’s golf, Lydia Ko (pictured above) is now about to begin her rookie season on the LPGA tour. The 16-year-old sensation from New Zealand will tee it up later this month in the LPGA’s Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Championship. It is the first LPGA event of the 2014 season and it will be Ko’s first event as an official member of the LPGA tour. She required a special waiver from the LPGA to play on the tour at her young age.
Mature beyond her years, both on and off the golf course, Ko has already won five professional women’s golf events. Four of those victories, over the past two years, came when she was an amateur. Two of those amateur victories came on the LPGA tour when she won the Canadian Women’s Open in 2012 and 2013. In November of last year she won her first event as a professional, a tournament in Taiwan in which several LPGA players competed.
Ko had an equally amazing record as an amateur player. She won the Australian Women’s Amateur twice (2011 and 2012), the New Zealand Women’s Amateur (2011), and the U.S. Women’s Amateur (2012).
She is now the 4th-ranked woman player in the world and she hasn’t reached her 17th birthday yet (she will turn 17 in April). Only LPGA veterans Inbee Park, Suzann Pettersen, and Stacy Lewis are ahead of her in the official Rolex World Rankings in women’s golf.
The expectations for Ko’s rookie season couldn’t be any higher. Many expect her to easily capture “Rookie of the Year” honors. Many expect her to win multiple events. Big product endorsement deals are already coming her way. She has the potential to be one of the superstars of women’s golf for many years to come. Everyone will be looking forward to see how this 16 year old makes the adjustment in her first season of full-time professional golf.
Jaye Marie Green
19 years old from Boca Raton, Florida, Jaye Marie Green raised a lot of eyebrows in December with her record-setting performance in the final stage of LPGA Q School. In the five-day tournament she shot an amazing 29 under par, ten shots better than the nearest competitor, to easily earn her rookie card for 2014. Her total score and victory margin both set Q School records.
A highly ranked amateur in her earlier teen years, Green decided against going to college and turned pro at 18. She played the 2013 season on the Symetra Tour. As a 16-year-old amateur she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open in 2010. She also qualified for that event in 2012. She finished second in the U.S. Women’s Amateur that same year. She played on the Junior Solheim Cup team in 2011, and had a long list of victories in junior championships.
Green is a good friend of young LPGA star Lexi Thompson. They grew up near each other in south Florida and played a lot together in junior golf. With the players in the women’s pro golf game getting younger and younger every year, Green will be one of several teenagers on the LPGA when she tees it up in her fist event as a rookie this season.
Don’t be surprised to see Green near the top of a few leaderboards in 2014. She is a very solid ball striker and is known for her brilliant putting. As they say in pro golf, putting is the name of the game.
North Dakota is not exactly known as a hotbed for developing golf talent, and North Dakota State University has not produced many professional players. 21-year-old Amy Anderson may well become one of the best-known pros to ever emerge from that state and that school. Anderson graduated in May and finished in 4th place (14 under par) at LPGA Q School in December in her first attempt to qualify for the LPGA tour.
The tall blonde (5’9”) is a powerful ball striker and could be among the longest hitters this season on the LPGA. She set an NCAA record in college with 20 career victories over her four years at NDSU. The previous record of 17 victories had been set in 1982 by LPGA veteran Juli Inkster when Inkster played at San Jose State University.
Anderson was a member of the U.S. Curtis Cup team in 2012. In 2009 she won the U.S. Junior Girls Championship. She first came to widespread national attention in 2011 at the U.S. Women’s Open. She qualified for the national championship during her sophomore season at North Dakota State. Her opening round score of 69 was good enough to give her the early first round lead in the Open. She came back to reality over the final three days, finishing the event in 63rd place, still an admirable achievement for an 18-year-old amateur.
Anderson’s older brother Nathan, himself a former college player at North Dakota State, will be caddying for her in her first season on the LPGA. He was on her bag in December at Q School when she earned her rookie card.
About the Author: Dave Andrews is a Harvard-educated former television news reporter. Dave is an avid golfer who has become a fan of the LPGA and the Symetra Tour. He is the author of Pops and Sunshine, a novel and screenplay about life on the women’s tour. The screenplay has been optioned by a production company in Hollywood.