LPGA's over-30 set makes resurgence in 2017

Stanley Chou/Getty Images

LPGA's over-30 set makes resurgence in 2017

LPGA Tour

LPGA's over-30 set makes resurgence in 2017

NAPLES, Fla. – Last year, the top three female golfers in the world at one point were under 21 years old. Stories were dominated by “youngest to” and “first to” hooks about players old enough to make millions, but too young to sip a glass of champagne.

While the LPGA is still a youth-filled circuit, 2017 offered more than a few wins for the aged. And while 30 is by no means “old,” it is a milestone age on a tour that had only one over-30 winner in 2016 – U.S. Women’s Open champ Brittany Lang.

This season, the over-30 set won seven titles on the LPGA, with 40-year-old Cristie Kerr winning twice.

“Kerr is like my inspiration,” said Brittany Lincicome. “Juli Inkster, I swear to God she’s in contention every time she tees it up.”

Lincicome, 32, began the 2017 season with a victory at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic. She’s one of a dozen different players over 30 who have won on the LPGA in the past five years. At this week’s CME Group Tour Championship, all eyes are currently on Sung Hyun Park, the 24-year-old who has a chance to become the first player since Nancy Lopez in 1978 to sweep both the LPGA Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year honors in the same season.

Park leads the season finale by three strokes at the midway point. Three players over 30 are within five shots of the lead: Pernilla Lindberg, Sarah Jane Smith and Suzann Pettersen.

“For me, it’s important that some of the over-30s are winning now as it can show me that I can win in my 40s, as I’ve done,” said Kerr. “Is it a younger person’s sport? Sure. But it’s also for us.”

Anna Nordqvist turned 30 on June 10. Three months later she won her second major title at the Evian Championship.

“I think 30 is a great age,” said Nordqvist, who is putting up results that rival what she did as a rookie. “I’m having the time of my life.”

The average age of tournament winners in 2017 is 26.9 through 32 events. That’s up 4.6 years from ’16. Twenty years ago, the average winning age was 31.4.

Stacy Lewis ended a three-year drought earlier this year with an emotional victory in Portland.

“Hopefully it just shows kids that you don’t have to come out at 20 years old,” said the proud Arkansas grad.

Mike Whan likes to point out that since he became commissioner of the LPGA, the number of young girls being introduced to the game has exploded. When he started at the LPGA, the number was 4,500; this year it’s 72,000.

The number of junior golfers who are girls has doubled in the past 15 years. Whan points to teenagers being at the top of the game as part of the reason for this sharp increase.

“So 12-year-olds are changing the way they think about being a sports leader because this is the sport in which it’s happening,” he said.

Lydia Ko has talked often about retiring at age 30. Nordqvist, now in her ninth year on tour, has reached her third decade and still feels fresh. But she knows she won’t be out here at 40.

“I have other goals,” she said. “I’m going to start a family, eventually. I guess in a way you start seeing the end a little bit. When you’re 21, you just see the start.”

Latest

More Golfweek
Home