How Good are the 2021 LPGA Rookies?

Last year’s Louise Suggs Rookie of the year race was no race at all. Because of the pandemic, Commissioner Michael Whan and the LPGA made the decision to do away with any rookie awards for the year. As a result, all nineteen 2020 rookies will be rookies once again in 2021. The 2020 rookies and the 2021 rookies will be the same players……almost.

The LPGA also made the decision last year to award the top five finishers from the 2020 Symetra Tour (one of those players, Kim Kaufmann already had an LPGA card), LPGA limited playing privileges for 2021. A Lim Kim, the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open Champion, also accepted LPGA membership. They will join the aforementioned nineteen rookies giving them a total of 24 rookies in 2021.

Yealimi Noh at the 2019 Hana Financial Group Championship | Photo by Ben Harpring

Let’s take a look at how successful past rookies have been.

In 2019, only 11 rookies out of a total of 27 succeeded in keeping their full time LPGA playing privileges without having to go back to the LPGA Qualifying Tournament. Now let’s see how that stacked up against other years.
2015 – 19 of 33 = 57.6%
2014 – 14 of 29 = 46.4%
2012 – 12 of 33 = 36.3%
2017 – 13 of 37 = 35.1%
2016 – 9 of 29 = 31.0%
2019 – 11 of 27 = 29.7%
2018 – 7 of 30 = 23.3%

As you can see, it has become increasingly more difficult for LPGA rookies to retain their full time playing privileges for more than one year.

Why is that you might ask. In my opinion, the answer to that is very simple. The LPGA has more depth in each week’s playing field than it ever had before. The players that have come over from other countries over the past decade (especially the republic of Korea and Thailand), have made the tour much stronger than it was even a decade ago.

That said, I think we are in for a treat this year as a number of 2021 rookies appear up for the challenge.

Here is a list of all 2021 rookies:

Jillian Hollis at the 2019 Prasco Charity Championship | Photo by Ben Harpring

2019 Symetra Tour Graduates:
Patty Tavatanakit
Jillian Hollis
Leona Maguire
Esther Lee

2019 Q-Series Graduates:
Yealimi Noh
Albane Valenzuela
Yui Kawamoto
Jennifer Chang
Haley Moore
Jiwon Jeon
Maia Schechter
Matilda Castren
Linnea Johansson
Andrea Lee
Esther Henseleit
Yujeong Son
Nuria Iturrioz
Bianca Pagdanganan
Kyung Kim

2020 Symetra Tour Graduates:
Ana Belac
Fatima Fernandez
Frida Kinult
Janie Jackson

Earned Her Card by Winning the U.S. Women’s Open Championship:
A Lim Kim

Top 5 LPGA Rookies to Watch in 2021

Here is my list of the top Five rookies to keep an eye on this year (in reverse order). Of course I have a big advantage this year as we all have seen these players already in 2020.

5- Matilda Castren (Finland)
Her 8th place finish at the Drive on Championship at Lake Oconee was the highlight of her 2020 season.

4- Andrea Lee (United States)
She surprised us all last year with 3 finishes in the top 11 on the LPGA Tour.

3- Bianca Pagdanganan (Philippines)
She led the LPGA Tour in driving distance in 2020 (283 yards). She also had a 3rd place finish at the Drive on Championship in Lake Oconee. If she starts hitting more fairways (117th on tour in 2020), watch out for her because she could jump to the top of this list.

2- Yealimi Noh (United States)
Played consistent golf the entire season in 2020. She finished No. 25 on the LPGA money list. A definite threat to take home the trophy for top rookie honors.

1- A Lim Kim (South Korea)
How can you possibly bet against the defending U.S. Women’s Open Champion?

Patty Tavatanakit at the 2019 Donald Ross Classic at French Lick Resort | Photo by Ben Harpring

Other News:

In case any of my readers have been living under a rock, LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan announced a few weeks back that he will be leaving the LPGA. This coming summer he will be taking over the job of CEO of the USGA.

The Ladies European Tour (LET) announced a remarkable record breaking 2021 schedule that will include 27 events in 19 different countries.

The answer to the quiz:

The only two LPGA golfers that teed it up in all 18 tournaments in 2020 were:
Cheyenne Knight and Celine Boutier.

Feature photo – A Lim Kim at the 2019 Hana Financial Group Championship by Ben Harpring. All photos in this article are by Ben.

Tony Jesselli is the former author of the very popular blog TONYS LPGA REPORT, which covered tour and player news from January of 2010 to September of 2019. Tony has earned the reputation as the ‘go-to’ resource for up to date and accurate news about the LPGA.

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonyjesselli where he posts regularly. 

See all of Tony’s articles

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