First-time winners dominated the LPGA schedule in 2022. Some found success quickly, while others found long-awaited glory for the first time after making more than 100, or even 200, starts on the LPGA. With a record-tying 11 first-time winners this season, here’s a look back at some of the most memorable breakthrough performances of the year.
Coming into her first season on the LPGA, much was expected of Thitikul, who became the youngest person to ever win a professional golf tournament, male or female, at the tender age of 14. Thitikul wasted no time turning talent into trophies. In March, the 19-year-old from Thailand won for the first time on tour at the JTBC Classic presented by Barbasol and followed with a second victory in September at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
Thitikul’s strong performance throughout the season earned her the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award before the season was over and she spent a week at the top of the world ranking. Thitikul came into the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship with a chance to also win the Rolex Player of the Year as well as the Vare Trophy, which is awarded to the player with the lowest scoring average of the year, both of which were ultimately won by Lydia Ko.
In the wake of her win at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, expectations were high for Kupcho when she joined the LPGA in 2019. It took her a few years to find her footing as a professional, which is a normal transition for many players who make their way from the college ranks to the LPGA, but not many have the spotlight that followed Kupcho. With a fresh mental approach and a new putting style, Kupcho made her way into the winner’s circle for the first time as a pro, doing so in style by capturing a major at the Chevron Championship. She took a commanding six-shot lead into the final round and held on for a two-stroke victory ahead of Jessica Korda for her first LPGA victory.
It didn’t take long for Kupcho to validate that maiden triumph. Two months later, Kupcho defeated Nelly Korda and Leona Maguire in a playoff at the Meijer LPGA Classic for her second win of the season. The following month, playing alongside Solheim Cup teammate and friend Lizette Salas, the duo captured the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational for the third victory of Kupcho’s breakout campaign.
Jodi Ewart Shadoff
As the saying goes, good things come to those who wait. And wait. And wait. Ewart Shadoff joined the LPGA in 2011, made 246 starts and recorded 27 top-10s before she captured her first win at the LPGA Mediheal Championship in October.
The 34-year-old went wire-to-wire for her first win, eking out a narrow one-shot victory at The Saticoy Club outside Los Angeles ahead of a charging Yuka Saso, who fired a final-round 66 to give Ewart Shadoff a scare on the closing day.
Muirfield Golf Club made history in 2022 as it hosted a women’s major championship for the first time in its long and storied history when it welcomed the AIG Women’s Open in July. Buhai’s journey to the winner’s circle was a long and winding one that saw her bounce back and forth between the LPGA and LET Tours between 2008 and 2014 until she regained regular status on the LPGA.
In her 221st start, Buhai made history as the first woman to win a major at Muirfield when she held off three-time major champion In Gee Chun, in a four-hole playoff nonetheless, for her first win at the age of 33.