Five Things to Know About The Ascendant LPGA Benefitting Volunteers of America | LPGA

by Joanne Miller

The Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America is set to take place in Texas this week, marking the final tournament in the United States before the LPGA Tour heads for a four-tournament stretch in Asia. This tournament holds a significant place in LPGA history with many renowned players, including Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis, and Angela Stanford, having claimed the Kathy Whitworth trophy. As the field is stacked with talented golfers, the stage is set for a thrilling competition that will undoubtedly etch the winner’s name in LPGA history.

One notable trend in recent tournaments is the rise of Rolex First-Time Winners. Hae Ran Ryu, an LPGA rookie, clinched her first victory at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, extending her lead in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race. Ryu’s win marked the 11th first-time victory of the season, tying a record set in 1995 and matched in 2022. However, amidst the prevalence of first-time winners, players like Celine Boutier and Lilia Vu have stood out by securing three wins this season. This highlights the unpredictability and open competition that exists on the LPGA Tour, with any player capable of claiming victory at any given time. Bianca Pagdanganan, who finished T3 last week, will be among those seeking to continue the trend of first-time winners at the Ascendant LPGA.

Defending champion Charley Hull arrives in Texas after a brief rest following her contribution to Team Europe’s win at the Solheim Cup. Hull emerged victorious in last year’s edition of the Ascendant LPGA, securing a one-stroke victory. This season, the Englishwoman has been performing exceptionally well, achieving five top-10 finishes and accumulating nearly $2.3 million in earnings. Hull’s recent runner-up finish at the Kroger Queen City Championship indicates her ability to contend for the title again. While defending a title is a challenging task, Hull’s current form suggests she is well-equipped to defend her crown and could add a third LPGA title to her successful career.

The Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America holds significant importance for players aiming to secure their spots in the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship or maintain their LPGA membership. Only the top 60 players in the Race to CME Globe standings will have the opportunity to compete in the CME Group Tour Championship, which means several golfers will be vying for a chance to qualify in this penultimate full-field event. Yuna Nishimura’s T3 finish last week propelled her from No. 81 to No. 61 in the rankings, enabling her to potentially make it to the championship event. Other players, like Bianca Pagdanganan and Jeongeun Lee5, are aiming to break into or hold onto their positions in the top 100 to retain their Tour membership.

As the tournament takes place in Texas, numerous native Texans and Texas residents will be in attendance. Major champions Celine Boutier, In Gee Chun, and Stacy Lewis are among the 14 Texas residents competing this week. Out of these residents, Boutier and Cheyenne Knight are the favorites to claim victory. Boutier has already secured three wins this season along with three top-10 finishes, making her a strong contender in any tournament. Knight, a Texas native, displayed her winning form in last week’s tournament by achieving her 10th top-20 finish of the season. Having previously won at the Ascendant LPGA in 2019, Knight’s familiarity with the course and home support make her a formidable competitor.

This week’s tournament will also pay tribute to the legendary Kathy Whitworth, who served as a longtime tournament ambassador for The Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America. Whitworth’s 88 victories remain unmatched in golf history, and her absence will be deeply felt as the event honors her in the first playing since her passing in 2022. A trophy bearing her name has been presented to the winner for the past eight years, and her signature has now been added to the trophy in her memory. Additionally, the cart path along the 18th fairway at Old American Golf Club has been named after her as The Kathy Whitworth Walk of Champions, further immortalizing her contributions to the sport.

In summary, the Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America promises an exciting and momentous tournament, with talented players vying for a chance to etch their names in LPGA history. Whether it be a first-time winner, a defending champion, or players striving to secure their spots in upcoming championships, the competition is sure to be fierce. Additionally, the tribute to Kathy Whitworth adds a poignant touch to the event, honoring her incredible achievements and contributions to the game of golf.

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