Now that the LPGA has a new bonafide superstar in Rose Zhang (Callaway Chrome Soft X), it will be interesting how she is marketed and the impact on advertisers TV network, the general public and, most of all, the tour.
While the LPGA has benefitted with strong support that has resulted in a record of more than $101 million in purse money this year. That included a $10 million purse in the PMG Women’s Pro Championship, the second major of the year, and a winner’s share of $1.5 million that was won by 20-year-old Ruoning Yin (Callaway Chrome Soft X). She turned pro last year and became only the second native of China to win an LPGA major.
Zhang finished tied for eighth in her first major tournament and collected $248,811. There had been high hopes for Zhang to win after her victory in her first LPGA event – the Mizuho Americas Open in early June – since winning back-to-back Player of the Year championships in college. There has never been a player who has won her first two tournaments in LPGA history.
CBS coverage of the event focused heavily on Zhang, who has evoked the kind of excitement in the golf world as Tiger Woods (Bridgestone Tour B XS) did when he turned pro at the age of 20 in August, 1996 and received some huge endorsement deals, notably Nike. Similar to Woods, Zhang is a product of Stanford University.
In his rookie year, he played in eight tournaments, won two and was voted Rookie of the Year. The following April he won his first major.
There are still three majors on the 2023 LPGA season, so it’s possible Zhang may win one before Woods did.
Woods singlehandedly transformed the PGA Tour, significantly boosting purses, TV coverage and marketing opportunities.
Zhang has been compared to Michelle Wie, who turned pro just before her 16
But the LPGA and her management team pushed her to do some things, which in retrospect may have hurt her, such as playing in men’s tournaments. That drew some criticism from her fellow women’s competitors.
So it will be interesting to see how the LPGA and her management team push her and what effect it will have on the sport and her fellow competitors.
The bottom line is the LPGA has never been stronger with a plethora of players from various parts of the world, a product of the growth of the game globally.
ANDY DANDY AGAIN: Before the PGA season began in earnest – I’m talking before the start of 2023 – my buddy Andy Bankuti predicted big things for Keegan Bradley (Srixon Z-Star). Well, Bradley has won two of 18 tournaments this season, including last week’s Traveler’s Championship with a tournament record score of 23-under par. He also has one runnerup finish, five top-10s and has made the cut in 14 tournaments. Overall, he has won more than $8.5 million. His annual earnings have been risen in the last three years. He has more than tripled his earnings since 2021 and, even more impressive, has increased it 10 times since he plummeted to $824471 in 2020. His best season in terms of annual earnings was in 2018 when he totaled more than $4 million.