Those seeking evidence of the global growth of the women's game need look no further than the Hanwha LIFEPLUS International Crown. The team event, which features eight countries made up of four players around the world, has only been made possible by the worldwide boom in women’s golf.
And so many of the young women who competed this past weekend at TPC Harding Park in the International Crown can point to a single woman who inspired them to take up the game. Someone they watched from their homeland that showed them it was possible to compete on golf’s grandest stage. Se Ri Pak from the Republic of Korea. Laura Davies of England. Karrie Webb of Australia. These women were true pioneers for golf in their homelands, and they’ve inspired a generation, who are now competing on various tours around the globe.
For the young girls in Thailand, that source of inspiration has been Ariya Jutanugarn.
The two-time major champion is the first player from Thailand, male or female, to win one of golf’s major championships. While she’s still just 27 years old, she’s been a source of inspiration to young women back home who grew up watching her make history. Players like Patty Tavatanakit and Atthaya Thitikul who became her teammates last week at the International Crown.
Ariya’s sister, Moriya, also a winner on the LPGA Tour, rounded out the four-person team. The squad dominated the competition, going 6-0-0 in pool play for the first time in the event’s history, led by the team’s MVP in Ariya Jutanugarn who lifted the team to victory at the fourth edition of the International Crown.
“I would say when I'm growing up, when I'm turning pro, I always want to inspire the kids back home, and right now I feel even better because not only me right now, I have Patty, Atthaya and Mo, and we're just going to keep doing the same thing,” Jutanugarn said after the team’s victory.
“Obviously all the Thai golfers in Thailand do look up to them, because what they did, it's pretty huge for our country. I think it's just a kick start for Thai golf,” Tavatanakit said about the Jutanugarn sisters. “As you can see this year we had a lot of new faces coming up from Thailand. It's good news, and hopefully more and more coming.”
Young girls who watched the women from countries around the globe compete last week will no doubt be inspired to take up the game, just like the generation before. And that ongoing inspiration has propelled the LPGA to new heights in recent years with the creation of events like the International Crown, a tournament that the original 13 founders could have only dreamed of back in 1950.
This week, the LPGA Tour pays tribute to those founding members of the LPGA Tour as the teams competing in the International Crown make the cross-country trip from California to New Jersey for the Cognizant Founders Cup. The event kicks off what the LPGA and PGA of America have dubbed the ‘Year of Women’s Golf’ in New Jersey with four events held in the Garden State in the span of six weeks.
Thursday, the Cognizant Founders Cup returns to Upper Montclair Country Club for the second consecutive season. It’s where Minjee Lee will seek to defend her title and try to recapture the magic she found last season as the win kicked off a banner year for the Aussie who went on to win her second major title just weeks later in the U.S. Women’s Open. Lee also took home the Aon Risk Reward Challenge’s $1 million prize at season’s end.
The Cognizant Founders Cup has always been one of the most cherished events on the schedule as the tournament celebrates the 13 founding members of the LPGA. The event, now in its 12th year, has always honored not only the founders but also the women who have been pioneers in the growth of the women’s game. It’s a fantastic event that doesn’t just celebrates the past but also recognizes the future of golf with THE JOHN SHIPPEN Cognizant Founders Cup, an 18-hole tournament that is committed to bringing more diversity to the game.
With such an outstanding purpose, the Cognizant Founders Cup has annually attracted a strong field and the 2023 edition is no different. Nelly Korda and Lydia Ko headline the field as the two have traded spots atop the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings to start the season. Jin Young Ko, a two-time winner of the event returns to New Jersey, in addition to a two-time winner already this season in Lilia Vu. The field also features major champions Georgia Hall, Yuka Saso, Lexi Thompson, Ashleigh Buhai, Hannah Green and Jennifer Kupcho.
They’re all coming to New Jersey for the Founders Cup. And not just for a chance to compete for $3 million in prize money, but to say thank you. To take a moment to recognize the 13 women who made not just the LPGA but events like the Hanwha LIFEPLUS International Crown a reality.
More than 70 years removed from the founding of the LPGA, the founders continue to inspire, and the women they motivated now carry the torch, as they continue to inspire the next generation of little girls around the world.