There’s never been an LPGA event quite like this before. With an AJGA Invitational being held concurrently at Liberty National, 24 of the top junior girls in the country will compete alongside the best pros in the world with the glimmering New York City skyline as a backdrop.
The new Mizuho Americas Open will take place June 1-4 in Jersey City, New Jersey, and feature a field of 120 players vying for a purse of $2.75 million, one of the largest among non-major events. Michelle Wie West, an ambassador of Mizuho, will be tournament host.
“I’m super excited for the junior component,” said Wie West. “It’s everything that I’ve wanted to do.”
Mizuho Americas, headquartered in New York City, is the fastest-growing region within Mizuho Financial Group, with 55,000 employees and $2 trillion in assets.
“They’re one of the top 15 banks in the world,” said LPGA commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan, “and we’re thrilled to be their first entrée into the sports marketing space.”
Jerry Rizzieri, president and CEO of Mizuho Americas, told Golfweek that while they did look at several PGA Tour options, which would’ve been more advantageous in terms of viewership numbers, that’s not what drove the mission. Mizuho views this as a purpose-driven sponsorship.
“Our organization I feel has done a good job at creating opportunities for women,” said Rizzieri. “Two of our three largest divisions are actually headed by women. In general, I feel like women are very underrepresented, certainly in our industry, and certainly at the very senior levels. But also I believe that the athletes themselves, whether it be the WNBA or the LPGA, are very much under-appreciated. Not only for their skill, but their dedication.
“When I think about the progress that has been made over the years, it’s certainly commendable, but still there’s a long way to go.”
While major championship purses have seen sizable increases in recent years, week-to-week purses on the LPGA still lag behind. Marcoux Samaan said going forward, new tournaments on the schedule will start with a minimum $2 million purse. Though Mizuho pushed that higher with the hope of making an impact and creating a premiere, destination event.
This marks the first time the LPGA has come to Liberty National, host of the 2017 Presidents Cup as well as several PGA Tour events. Marcoux Samaan said the event, owned and operated by Excel Sports Management, ticks all the boxes the tour is looking for in a new partner.
The unique element of linking the past and present, with future LPGA stars playing alongside current ones, lines up with Wie West’s mission. She’s been thrilled to hear the support of her peers, who look forward to paying it forward inside the ropes.
For some junior players, this could be a life-changing event, cementing a dream to compete at the highest level.
“I’m hoping a lot of friendships will be made and a lot a lot mentorships will be formed,” said Wie West, who stepped away from competition earlier this year. The 32-year-old mom will take part in junior clinics at Liberty National and spend time in the broadcast booth.
In 2023, Wie West will be joined by Annika Sorenstam as an LPGA tournament host as The ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican takes place in November in Belleair, Florida.
The first tournament Wie West won on the LPGA was the 2009 Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Guadalajara, Mexico. Winning Ochoa’s event was extra special, Wie West said, not only because she looked up the LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer, but because she was able to see the impact Ochoa had in her home country.
“I never thought it would happen this fast and at Liberty National,” Wie West said of hosting an LPGA event. “It’s been the biggest honor.”