As the 2019 LPGA Tour season ends, the CME Group Tour Championship provided the perfect opportunity to celebrate a year’s worth of incredible on-the-course performances and off-the-course accomplishments.
Four-time 2019 LPGA Tour winner Jin Young Ko earned the most hardware at Thursday night’s Rolex LPGA Awards, accepting the Rolex Player of the Year award and Rolex ANNIKA Major Award. She later added the Vare Trophy to her tally when she captured the award for the season’s lowest scoring average following completion of the CME Group Tour Championship, finishing at 69.062.
“At this very special occasion, I want to say that this is not the end but only the beginning,” said Ko. “I will work even harder to become a better golfer.”
Additionally, by winning the 2019 Official Money title with $2,773,894, Ko joined Yani Tseng, Lorena Ochoa and Ariya Jutanugarn as the only players to win the Player of the Year and the Vare Trophy and lead the Tour in season earnings while also sitting first in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.
Brooke Henderson received the 2019 Founders Award, an honor previously known as the William and Mousie Powell Award. The award is given annually to an LPGA Member who, in the opinion of her playing peers, best exemplifies the spirit, ideals and values of the LPGA through her behavior and deeds. The award has been given out since 1986, with a list of previous recipients that includes Kathy Whitworth, Nancy Lopez, Pat Bradley, Betsy King, Juli Inkster, Lorena Ochoa, Chella Choi, Juli Inkster, Karrie Webb and So Yeon Ryu. Effective this year, the award will be presented in honor of the 13 LPGA Founders who began the LPGA Tour in 1950.
“I know we as a Tour will continue to do our best to honor all 13 Founders and act as they so courageously and inspiringly did. What makes this award even more special is that it was voted on by my playing peers on the LPGA. Thank you to all of you,” said Henderson. “I have made many great friends over my five years on Tour. I love being able to live my dream playing out there and to experience this journey along so many talented golfers who are also great people.”
Suzann Pettersen, who retired in September after returning from an extended maternity leave to sink the winning putt for Team Europe at the 2019 Solheim Cup, was named the winner of the 2019 Heather Farr Perseverance Award. The award honors an LPGA player who, through her hard work, dedication and love of the game of golf, has demonstrated determination, perseverance and spirit in fulfilling her goals as a player. Established in 1994, the Heather Farr Perseverance Award celebrates the life of Farr, an LPGA Tour player who died on Nov. 20, 1993, following a four-and-a-half-year battle with breast cancer. Previous winners of this award include Heather Farr, Shelley Hamlin, Martha Nause, Terry-Jo Myers, Lorie Kane, Nancy Scranton, Brandi Burton, Kris Tschetter, Kim Williams, Beth Daniel, Colleen Walker, Amy Read, Se Ri Pak, Leta Lindley, Sophie Gustafson, Lisa Ferrero, Stephanie Meadow, Ariya Jutanugarn and Jessica Korda.
“I never knew Heather Farr, but I’ve known of her and this award since I joined the LPGA Tour. I can’t tell you how much is means to receive this, not just because of the player it honors, but because of all the players who have received before me and because it’s chosen by our fellow players, my peers,” said Pettersen, who became emotional later in her speech when speaking of her son Herman. “The LPGA Tour has been such a huge part of my life. It gave me the opportunity to follow my childhood dream and to reach beyond my wildest imagination. To go places, meet people and do things I never dreamed possible. For almost two decades, I’ve been able to measure my game against the very best female golfers in the world. I made many great friends and received lots of good advice along the way.”
The Rolex LPGA Awards ceremony celebrated Rolex-First Time Winners Celine Boutier, Cydney Clanton, Hannah Green, Cheyenne Knight, Bronte Law and Jeongeun Lee6. Additionally, Lee6 also added to her trophy count when she accepted the 2019 Rolex Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year award with a painstakingly memorized English speech that brought the crowd to its feet.
“With the support of my family and friends, I was able to pursue my biggest dream. The LPGA Tour is where we get to compete with the best players in the world. Just being a part of it made me feel like I could take on anything,” said Lee6, the 13th player from the Republic of Korea to capture the honor and the fifth consecutive, following Jin Young Ko (2018), Sung Hyun Park (2017), In Gee Chun (2016) and Sei Young Kim (2015). “It is an honor to compete on the LPGA Tour, to be able to play at the best golf courses around the world and among the world’s best golfers. Winning the U.S. Women’s Open and receiving Rookie of the Year has all been a dream come true.”
LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan selected KPMG as the 2019 recipient of the Commissioner’s Award. In his speech, Whan spoke of their foresight in stepping in as title sponsors of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, revamping the LPGA Championship into a week-long celebration of female leadership and empowerment. When accepting the award, retired Chairman of KPMG International and incoming LPGA Board member John Veihmeyer thanked LPGA Tour player and KPMG Ambassador Stacy Lewis for her role in elevating the competition and focusing its most important asset – the players.
“There’s nothing that has made me more proud over the years of being at this championship than listening to the players, hearing them or having them come up to me and telling me how much they love this event,” said Veihmeyer. “This is all about the players. We have some of the greatest athletes in the world here. They deserve to be on the best courses in the world. They deserve to be playing for the best purses in the world and they deserve to be on network TV.”
Nancy Quarcelino, a member of the LPGA Teaching & Club Professionals (T&CP) Hall of Fame who has coached players on both the LPGA Tour and the PGA Tour, joined an elite group of her peers as the recipient of the 2019 Ellen Griffin Rolex Award. Instituted in 1989, the award honors the late Ellen Griffin, the best-known woman golf teacher in U.S. history. The award recognizes an individual, male or female, who has made a major contribution to the teaching of golf and who has demonstrated, through teaching, Griffin’s spirit, love and dedication to the golf student, teaching skills and game of golf.
“I’ve been very blessed in my life to be able to get up every day and go to work and do something that I love,” said Quarcelino. “I can only hope that I can be an inspiration to people that are watching, that are teaching, that are coming up, that are playing. I can only hope that I can be that inspiration to them and I do want to Drive On for the future.”
Earlier in the week, the LPGA Tour celebrated the winners of two season-long competitions. Carlota Ciganda captured the inaugural Aon Risk Reward Challenge and earned the $1 million prize. The competition, which measured the performance of LPGA Tour and PGA Tour golfers on a series of holes across multiple tournaments, tested players’ ability to analyze risk, utilize data-driven insights to identify opportunities and maximize performance in the moments that matter most. Ciganda joined PGA Tour winner Brooks Koepka in winning the inaugural honor, with both players receiving equal prize money.
Additionally, Ko won the LEADERS Top 10 competition on a tiebreak, earning $100,000. She racked up 12 top-10s in 21 starts, including four victories and three runner-up spots, to finish ahead of second-place Brooke Henderson and third-place Hyo Joo Kim. Henderson and Kim also recorded 12 top-10s but Ko won the competition via a tiebreak, her four wins eclipsing Henderson (two) and Kim (none).