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Rating the 2019 LPGA Rookies - Part 1

With the LPGA season about 1/3 complete I would like to take a look at how the rookies are faring so far this year. I will do this again at the 2/3 mark and a final time at the end of the season.

These ratings are strictly based on how they fared in LPGA events only. Any successes or failures on other tours are not considered here. My main objective here is to analyze the chances of these rookies retaining their LPGA cards for next season.

Depending on the player's priority rating, some have played up to 8 events this year, others haven't teed it up at all. I have given grades to all players that have played in at least 2 tournaments, otherwise they have been marked incomplete.

You might think that some of these grades I have given are harsh, but this is the big time now, and these players have to take advantage of every opportunity, or risk losing their cards. 

Ideally, you would like to finish in the top 80 on the money list. That will guarantee you a priority list ranking good enough to compete in all full-field events. If you finish 81-100
 it will still get you into most full field events. If a player finishes outside the top 100, the chances of playing in more than a few tournaments in 2020 is very unlikely.

Let's take a look at how they are doing so far. 
Image result for jeongeun lee6
Jeongeun Lee, as expected, is the leader for top rookie honors.

In alphabetical order: (SA = scoring average, ML = money list)

Pajaree Anannarukarn - She has not had many opportunities because of her position (#170) on the LPGA Priority List. To her credit she has taken full advantage of her limited playing time. She has teed it up three times, but has made the cut each time. Her scoring average of 71.00 is excellent. Her best finish this year is 12th place at the Lotte Championship. She will get many more opportunities when the LPGA has their first Priority List reshuffle after the next tournament in Virginia. Grade B-

Sarah Burnham - Like Pajaree above, she has only teed it up three times. The big difference is that Sarah has not taken advantage of any of those opportunities. She has missed the cut each time. Her scoring average of 75.20 tells us why.  Grade F

Robyn Choi - She has also teed it up three times this year without making a single cut. Her scoring average of 74.20 also tells us the story.  Grade F

Youngin Chun - Chun has had the chances, teeing it up six times. Unfortunately she has made just one cut, and that was a tie for 82nd place. Her scoring average of 75.90 is the highest of any rookie. She is currently #149 on the money list. Grade F

Anne van Dam - The LPGA Tour's "big bomber." She is averaging almost 290 yards off the tee. That would be great if she was hitting it straight. She is not, as shown by her ranking of 119th in driving accuracy. That said, she has made four of 6 cuts, with a best finish of 28th place. Her scoring average of 72.00 (57th on tour) is quite good, and she is currently inside the top 100 at #93. Grade C

Maria Fassi - She has chosen to stay in school for her senior year. Grade Incomplete.

Isa Gabsa - She has teed it up a total of seven times this year, seeing the weekend three times. Her best finish was at the ISPS Handa Vic Open, where she tied for 17th place. Her scoring average of 72.75 is not terrible but could use some improvment. She currently is just outside the top 100 at #105. Grade C-

Kristen Gillman -  We expected good things from this two time U.S. Women's Amateur Champion, and she has lived up to our expectations. She has teed it up eight times this year, and has missed just two cuts. She already has three top 15 finishes, with her 6th place finish at the ANA Inspiration (the year's first Major Championship) her best so far. Her scoring average of 71.18 ranks 32nd on tour, and she is currently #33 on the money list. She has already made enough official earnings to secure her playing privileges for 2020. Grade A

Clariss Guce - She has teed it up five times to date, and made two cuts. She has not been able to finish any better than 59th, leaving her all the way down at #138 on the money list. Grade F

Jenny Haglund - Jenny has teed it up six times and missed the cut every time. No need to explain any further. Grade F

Muni He - If only her stats would match her popularity. They don't. She has teed it up seven times this year, making the cut just twice. To make matters worse, both times that she earned money she was a sponsor invitee on foreign soil with no cut, making those earnings "unofficial" and will not help her in her fight to retain her card for next year. She ranks #2 on the LPGA Tour in driving accuracy, but falls all the way to #100 in greens in regulation. She will still get a number of chances this year and needs to start making cuts on U.S. soil soon. Grade D-

Becca Huffer - She has teed it up seven times without making a single cut. Grade F

Cheyenne Knight - Although Cheyenne has made four cuts in just five events, she has not manged to finish better than 40th (which she accomplished twice). Still, making  cuts is one of the keys to retaining your playing card. She is currently right on the borderline of doing that as she is currently in 104th place on the money list. Her scoring average of 71.94 is actually very good (ranks 55th on the LPGA), telling me that she is capable of improving as the season progresses. Grade C

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Jennifer Kupcho won at Augusta National last month, but we will have to wait a while before we get to see her on the LPGA Tour.

Jennifer Kupcho - A future star! But we will have to wait a while yet as she chose to finish up her senior year at Wake Forrest.  Grade Incomplete.

Jaclyn Lee - She has teed it seven times this year, making the cut in just two of those events. Fortunately for her, one of those finishes was a solid 22nd at the ISPS Women's Australian Open. Her 72.68 scoring average isn't terrible, but her 114th place standing on the money list must come down if she wants to play here next season. Grade D

Jeongeun Lee6 - No surprise here. We thought she would be the best rookie, and thus far she certainly is. Her 69.96 scoring average is not only the best of any rookie, but the 8th best on tour. Her best finish was a tie for 2nd at the LPGA Mediheal Championship. She has not yet wrapped up the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year Award (Kristen Gillman is still challenging with 2/3 of the season remaining), but she has certainly wrapped up her playing privilges for 2020. Grade A+

Ruixin Liu - A big disappointment so far this year. She was the player of the year on the Symetra Tour last year, finishing #1 on that tour's money list. This year has been quite another story. She has had plenty of opportunities, teeing it up seven times, but has made just one cut (55th place). Her scoring average of 73.81 is not nearly good enough, and her #144 position on the money list is even worse. Grade F

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Louise Ridderstrom 
Louise Ridderstrom - Taking advantage of rare opportunities is what it is all about. Louise got a rare opportunity to tee it up at the LPGA Mediheal Championship and took full advantage with an 18th place finish. With the LPGA's first reshuffle after the next tournament, she will now get to tee it up on a much more consistent basis. That one paycheck has her already at 109th on the money list. There is still work to be done, but she will now get many more chances. Grade C+

Sarah Schmelzel - A very pleasant surprise! She has missed only one cut this year in eight events. Her best finish this season was at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, where she ended up tied for 18th. She still has some work to do to secure her 2020 playing card (currently #73 on money list), but she is almost there. Her scoring average of 72.45 is decent (81st), but could use some improving. Grade B

Klara Spilkova - This former Ladies European Tour player got off to a terrible start this year missing the cut in her first four events. She has played much better since then, making the cut in her last three starts. She is currently #106 on the money list, so her season could still go in either direction. Grade C-

Image result for Kristen Gillman
As expected, UAB's Kristen Gillman (L) and Lauren Stephenson are having fine rookie seasons.

Lauren Stephenson - At five feet 3 inches tall, you wouldn't expect her to be a long hitter of the golf ball. She certainly is though, averaging almost 275 yards off the tee. She has missed just two cuts this year in seven starts, and her 71.96 scoring average ranks 51st on the LPGA Tour. Her best finish this year was 8th place at the ISPS Handa Vic Open. She still has a bit of work to do before I can say she is safe for 2020, but she is almost there.  Grade B+

Linnea Strom - She has teed it up 8 times this year and made half of her cuts. Her best finish to date was a tie for 18th place at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. Her scoring average of 72.79 could use some improvement, but her position on the money list (#77) means she has a real good chance of retaining her card for 2020. Grade B-

Elizabeth Szokel - It has been a tough ride so far this year for Elizabeth. She has teed it up seven times, and although she has made three cuts, she hasn't finished better than 47th. Her scoring average of 72.90 (102nd) needs to come down some. She is currently buried at 122 on the money list. Grade D-

Charlotte Thomas - Maybe the biggest surprise on the tour this year! Charlotte got our attention when she started out the year with a 2nd place finish at the ISPS Handa Vic Open. If you thought that might be a fluke, she proved that wasn't the case when she finished 6th at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She is currently #39 on the money list, and has already earned her spot on the LPGA Tour for 2020. Grade A-

Alana Uriell - Alana has not finished better than 40th in any of her five starts this year, missing the cut four times. Her scoring average of 73.45 is not good, neither is her current position of 139th on the money list. Grade F

Lilia Vu - Has not taken advantage of her limited opportunities as some others have on this list. Has made just one cut in three attempts, and that was a 72nd place finish. Her 74.57 scoring average just won't come close to cutting it on the LPGA. Her 148th place ranking on the money list gives her very little chance of playing here next year. Grade F

Suzuka Yamaguchi - The jury is still out as to the chances of this young lady retaining her playing privileges for next year. She has made four cuts in six tries, but is now sitting at #111 on the money list. Her 73.15 scoring average must come down a half a stroke. She still has time to do that. Grade D-

This Week's Trivia Question:  
What two LPGA players won the Rookie of the Year Award and the Vare Trophy (lowest scoring average) in the same year? 

For the answer to this week's trivia question press here.


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