1st place Lilia Vu (USA), 2nd place Natakrita Wongtawirap (Thailand), 3rd place Ataya Titikul (Thailand), joint 4th place Maya Stark (Sweden) and Celine Boutier (France), joint 6th place Jinyoung Ko and Nellie Korda (USA) Lydia Ko (New Zealand) Leona Maguire (Ireland)… .
The result of the LPGA Tour Honda LPGA Thailand, which ended on the 26th, shows at a glance how the LPGA tour is going these days. Three of the top nine players are from Europe, with two each from the US and Thailand. There is only one Korean player name. With this tournament, Korea has failed to win the championship in 18 consecutive tournaments. It has been 15 years since Korea has not produced a winner for such a long time.
Is the era of Korean women’s golf, which has dominated the LPGA tour for the past 10 years, over? If so, what is the reason? Experts point to the decrease in the number of players challenging the LPGA as the number of tournaments and prize money on the Korean Women’s Professional Golf (KLPGA) tour has increased. “As long as new blood is not transfused, there is a high possibility that the era of Korean players winning 10 or more wins every year in the LPGA will no longer come,” comes an analysis.
Is the LPGA era over in Korea?It was last year that Korea started going downhill on the LPGA Tour. Last year, the number of wins that Korean players combined was only 4 wins, the lowest since 3 wins in 2011. The last time Jeon In-ji (29) won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship was last June. The empty seats were filled by Thai, American and European players. Trophies such as Player of the Year, prize money, average batting average, and rookie of the year were all owned by other countries. It is the first time since 2008 that Korea has failed to win any individual titles on the LPGA Tour.
Experts cite ‘absence of a large rookie’ as the reason. In the domestic golf industry, since Pak Se-ri (46) wrote the “LPGA Success Story,” it was natural for a player who reached the top in Korea to challenge the LPGA. Yoo So-yeon, Kim Se-young, Jeon In-ji, Park Seong-hyeon, Ko Jin-young, and Lee Jeong-eun6 were like that. When one player faltered, a newcomer jumped in and continued the ‘Golden Age of Korea’.
COVID-19 has changed this trend, too. As the immigration process became complicated, a line of players delayed going overseas. Park Min-ji (25), the number one player in Korea, is a representative example. Since 2021, she has won six seasons for two consecutive years, but has yet to come up with a plan to advance to the LPGA. Yoo Hae-ran (22) was the only KLPGA Tour player who challenged the LPGA Tour Qualifying (Q) Series last year.
The LPGA’s poor value for moneyThere are two reasons why Korean players are ignoring the LPGA. It is the increased popularity of the KLPGA and the relatively low status of the LPGA. This year, the KLPGA Tour will be held in 32 tournaments with a total prize money of 31.2 billion won. Two years ago, there were 29 competitions, and the total prize money increased significantly from 26.9 billion won.
Of course, in terms of prize money, the LPGA Tour is much bigger. The LPGA Tour offered a total prize money of 101.4 million dollars (approximately 134.2 billion won) in 33 official tournaments this season. However, since most Korean golfers have to fight against the world’s top players, the KLPGA is better for winning prize money.
Besides, to play as an LPGA player, you have to spend more than twice as much money as in Korea. To participate in one competition, you have to spend more than 5,000 dollars (approximately 6.6 million won) of personal money for airfare and lodging. Assuming that it participates in 28 competitions, it amounts to 140,000 dollars (approximately 185 million won). The airfare to and from the US and Korea and the usual living expenses are separate. 먹튀검증
An industry insider said, “Many of the players on the LPGA Tour didn’t make a lot of money last year.” One player’s parents confessed, “Considering the long distance traveled and the loneliness experienced in living abroad, it is difficult to push them to ‘challenge on a bigger stage’.”
The attractiveness of the LPGA tour is not as good as it used to be. With the emergence of LIV Golf, backed by Saudi Arabia’s oil money, the LPGA has become a ‘third-class tournament’ following the PGA Tour and LIV Golf.