It seems like every time I turn on the Golf Channel or read one of the major golf publications, they are always talking about the young stars on the PGA tour. I think the LPGA certainly has their share of young stars also, but as always seems to be the case the ladies are ignored.
Let us take a look at the young stars of the LPGA. I am going to limit this to ages 25 and under. I will strictly be ranking according to age & accomplishments.
1- Yani Tseng – It is hard to believe Yani is only 22 years old. She not only has 6 victories to her credit but 3 of those wins were majors. The player of the year in 2010 is only missing the U.S. Woman’s Open to complete the Grand Slam. Currently ranked #1 in the Rolex Rankings.
2- Paula Creamer - Recent thumb surgery slowed down the Pink Panther for a spell, but it did not stop her from winning the 2010 U.S. Open held at Oakmont CC. At 24 years of age she already has 9 tour wins. Maybe even more impressive is her 72 top ten finishes. How impressive is that? No other LPGA member under the age of 30 is even close to that number.
3- Jiyai Shin - She certainly has accomplished plenty in the short time that she has been an LPGA member. At 23 years old she already has 8 wins, one a major, and 36 top ten finishes on the LPGA tour.
4- Na-Yeon Choi - This 23 year old won the Vare Trophy in 2010. She might be the most consistent player on tour. A 4-time winner, her first major can't be too far away. Already with 39 top 10 finishes she is a candidate to go to the top of this list.
5- In Kyung Kim - About to turn 23 she is a 3-time winner on the LPGA tour. She has finished in the top 10 in all of her four appearances this year giving her 39 for her career. Her first major has to be coming soon.
6- Ai Miyazato - Just barely gets to be included on this list as she will turn 26 next month. It took her awhile to get that first LPGA win, but now has that count up to six. She has yet to win a major. She won 5 times last year but cooled off in the second half. She is off to a poor start this year and is in danger of losing her "elite" status. Her 42 top tens will keep her there for now.
The Next Level:
7- Michelle Wie - She has been around so long that we forget she is only 21 years old. She is a two-time winner and has 29 top 10 finishes. Has all the tools to be the #1 player in the world someday, but does she want it bad enough? I say let us wait until she gets out of school before passing further judgement on this potential superstar.
8- Song-Hee Kim - I am leaving myself open to criticism by ranking her this high on my list. Of course I am aware that she has never won a single tournament. I am also baffled by that fact because she seems to be in contention (except for an early-season slump) every week. How good is she? In her 83 career LPGA starts she has finished in the top 10 35 times. That is 42% of her starts. That is a number reserved for the very elite. Of course I can't put her in that category until she gets a few wins under her belt, but I bet they are coming soon.
9- Morgan Pressel - Has 3 top-10 finishes already this year giving her 43 for her career. A veteran at the age of 23, she has a major among her 2 career victories. Still young enough to improve to a higher position.
10- Stacy Lewis - A star in the making. A rookie at the age of 23, she is now 25 years old. A winner of the year's first Major Championship, she has 3 top-ten finishes already this year. She will be higher on this list next year.
11- Brittany Lincicome - Has 3 wins, including a Major, at the age of 25. Her inconsistent play keeps me from rating her higher. One of the longest drivers on tour, if she learns to keep the ball in the fairway she will be even better than she is now.
12- Inbee Park - I'm sure there will be some who will think she should be higher, but she tends to play better in Asia then on the LPGA tour. At 22, she has plenty of potential. Her only win to date came way back in 2008, but she had 11 top tens last year.
13- Sandra Gal - A late bloomer? I think so. Many thought her win at the Kia this year was a fluke. Not so fast. She has 3 top tens already this year and her worst finish in her last 4 events was a 15th-place finish at the year's first major.
14- Anna Nordqvist - Got her first 2 LPGA wins in 2009, but has not contended very often since. She is only 23 and could break out again anytime.
15- Mika Miyazato - I can't put her higher because she has not won any of her 41 career starts. That said, she does have 9 top-ten finishes and can break out any time now.
16- Lexi Thompson - Not yet an LPGA member but I can not leave her off this list. At 16 years old she is a big part of the future of this tour. She already has a 2nd-place finish along with a top ten at the U.S. Open at Oakmont. Was tied for the third-round lead last week before she faltered. Will probably not be playing full time until 2013, but I predict she will shoot to the top very quickly.
Those are just some of the brightest young stars on the tour under 25. You might want to add Amy Yang (22), Sun Young Yoo (25), M.J. Hur (22), Shanshan Feng (22), Vicky Hurst (20), Hee Young Park (23), Beatriz Recari (24), Azahara Munoz (23), Momoko Ueda (24), Kyeong Bae (25), Na On Min (23), Haeji Kang (20), Mariajo Uribe (21), Teresa Lu (22), Amanda Blumenherst (24), Jennifer Song (21) and Jessica Korda (18) to the list, just to name a few.
I will put these Young Stars up against any tour.