This year’s LPGA rookies appear to be a special class. Many believe they could be amongst the best ever.
There are a total of 32 rookies this year:
2021 SYMETRA TOUR GRADUATES (4)
- Casey Danielson (United States)
- Sophia Schubert (United States)
- Amanda Doherty (United States)
- Morgane Metraux (Switzerland)
LPGA Q-SERIES TOP-45 AND TIES (28)
- Na Rin An (Republic of Korea)
- Hye-Jin Choi (Republic of Korea)
- Allisen Corpuz (United States)
- Olivia Cowan (Germany)
- Karis Davidson (Australia)
- Ayaka Furue (Japan)
- Linn Grant (Sweden)
- Haylee Harford (United States)
- Lauren Hartlage (United States)
- Yaeeun Hong (Republic of Korea)
- Yu-Chiang Hou (Chinese Taipei)
- Yu-Sang Hou (Chinese Taipei)
- Gina Kim (United States),
- Stephanie Kyriacou (Australia)
- Agathe Laisne (France)
- Brooke Matthews (United States)
- Sanna Nuutinen (Finland)
- Kaitlyn Papp (United States)
- Jessica Peng (Chinese Taipei)
- Pauline Roussin-Bouchard (France)
- Hinako Shibuno (Japan)
- Maddie Szeryk (Canada)
- Atthaya Thitikul (Thailand)
- Savannah Vilaubi (United States)
- Dewi Weber (Netherlands)
- Ruoning Yin (China)
- Katie Yoo (United States)
- Weiwei Zhang (China)
COMPARING THE ROOKIE CLASSES
Earning your LPGA card, and keeping it are two very different things.
In the last decade only 38% of LPGA rookies maintained their playing privileges for the following season (without having to go back to the LPGA Q-Series).
Let us look at a couple of the most successful rookie classes of the last decade:
- 2015 – 19 of 33 = 57.6%
- 2014 – 14 of 29 = 46.44%
Now the not so successful:
2013 – 8 of 35 = 22.8%
2018 – 7 of 30 = 23.3%
The rookie class of 2015 was by far the best rookie class of the last decade. It included many players that have gone on to be stars on the LPGA Tour. Here are the players from that year that have won at least one LPGA tournament:
- Sei Young Kim
- Hyo Joo Kim
- Brooke Henderson
- Minjee Lee
- Ha Na Jang
- Charley Hull
- Ariya Jutanugarn
- Wei Ling Hsu
It may be a very long time before we see a group like that again. But I think that this year’s rookie class can come close.
Here are my top five picks out of this year’s rookie class (in reverse order):
5. Hye Jin Choi – South Korea 23 years old.
She shocked us all when she had the lead at the 2017 US Women’s open after 70 holes. Unfortunately, her hopes came to an end when she put her ball in the water on the 71st hole.
She is currently ranked # 53 in the current Rolex World Rankings.
Hinako Shibuno – Japan 23
She won the 2019 AIG Women’s British Open! At that time she turned down LPGA membership. Known as the “Smiling Cinderella”, she is currently ranked # 41 in the Rolex Rankings.
3. Na Rin An – South Korea 25
Medalist at the 2021 LPGA Q-Series. Tied for 3rd at the 2021 BMW Ladies Championship.
She is a 2x KLPGA Tour winner, and is currently ranked # 56 in the Rolex Rankings.
2. Atthaya Thitikul – Thailand 18
Only 18 years old and already ranked # 19 in the Rolex Rankings! Last year she was both the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year on the Ladies European Tour. She had 2 wins and 11 top five finishes on that tour. She was twice runner up on the LPGA tour in 2021. Long term I look for her to be the most outstanding player on this list. Look for her to make a serious run at the Louise Suggs LPGA Rookie of the Year Award this year.
1. Ayaka Furie – Japan 21
I am only giving her the nod over Atthaya Thitikul because of her experience, and think she will take rookie honors this year. She is a 7X winner on the JLPGA Tour. She is currently ranked # 14 in the Rolex Rankings. Last year she finished 4th at the Amundi Evian Championship, and 20th at the AIG Women’s British Open.
Player that may make me look foolish for leaving her off the list: Pauline Roussin-Bouchard (France).
Will this year’s class challenge that 2015 rookie class as best ever? I will revisit this later on in the year.
Feature Image. Hinako Shibuno at 2021 LPGA Q-Series. All photos by our LPGA Tour accredited photographer Ben Harpring.