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LPGA launches 71st season

In many ways, this past year — with all the pandemic challenges — was also the LPGA’s most triumphant.

Agence France-Presse

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MIAMI, United States (AFP) — The LPGA launches its 71st season Thursday with plans for a 34-event global campaign paying a record $76.45 million (63 million euros) in prize money but a lame duck commissioner.

A field of 25 women will gather with celebrities for the LPGA Tournament of Champions at Four Seasons in Orlando to begin the 2021 campaign after a 2020 season that endured a five-month shutdown due to Covid-19.

“In many ways, this past year 0 — with all the pandemic challenges — was also the LPGA’s most triumphant,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said.

“We’re entering 2021 on a wave of momentum — a strong schedule with record purses, new events/sponsors, double-digit viewership growth and a talented team that demonstrated exceptional skill, resilience and capability to lead through challenging times.”

The LPGA makes a comeback with revived tournaments that went unplayed last year, but will lose Whan, the tour’s commissioner since October 2009.

Whan announced 6 January he was stepping down this year, but would remain in the job indefinitely to help ease the transition.

“As the longest-serving LPGA commissioner, I look back on these 11 years with enormous pride and satisfaction at what we’ve accomplished,” Whan said.

“I simply wouldn’t leave the LPGA if I thought the future was uncertain or not trending straight up. In fact, even after the challenges we faced in 2020, the LPGA has never been more financially secure… The LPGA is poised for even greater heights.”

The Tournament of Champions, modified this year to include event winners from the past three years due to Covid-19, will see Mexico’s Gaby Lopez try to defend her title after a 25-foot birdie playoff on the seventh extra hole brought her the 2020 title.

The three North American members of the world rankings top 10 — number four Nelly Korda and number five Danielle Kang from the United States and Canada’s sixth-ranked Brooke Henderson — are in the field.

Kang has struggled with a move to Las Vegas and exposure to Covid-19 since the 2020 season ended a month ago.

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