When the girls tee off next Thursday, January 23, at the season opener, the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic, there will be new faces in the field. While she’s not a newcomer to the LPGA scene, Lydia Ko’s at the top of everybody’s rookies-to-watch list. Ko brings an exceptional edge to her rookie season, two LPGA victories and the No. 4 Rolex Ranking, and she will certainly capture the fans’ attention. But there are two other rookies teeing up at the Ocean Club Golf Course on Paradise Island that I’m keeping on my radar as well and a third who’ll join the crowd in a few weeks.
Jaye Marie Green
Green stole the show at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament in December after shattering Q School scoring records. She put on an impressive display of poise and consistency through the five-day marathon event and is a promising up-and-comer for the young American contingent on Tour. She shot all five rounds in the 60’s and finished at 29-under par, 10 strokes ahead of runner-up Mi Rim Lee. The 19-year old also has an entire professional season under her belt which could help the transition process. She competed on the Symetra Tour – Road to the LPGA full time last year and recorded three top-10 finishes.
Molinaro has been polishing her game during her collegiate career and getting a solid foundation for her step up onto the big stage. The Italian knocked nearly three strokes off her scoring average in her senior year at Arizona State en route to Pac-12 Player of the Year and First-Team All-American honors in 2012. The 23-year old shined in her first professional season on the Symetra Tour in 2013 and picked up her first victory as a pro at the Friends of Mission Charity Classic. Heading into the final two Symetra Tour tournaments, Molinaro sat in a tie for 11th in the Volvik Race for the Card standings. She made a season-ending push and finished third and fourth at the final events to jump into second place on the Tour’s final money list. Her $39,848 total also earned her Gaelle Truet Rookie of the Year honors.
Janet Lin, who’s also beginning her rookie year, is not in the field at the Pure Silk-Bahamas. She’ll debut at the Women’s Australian Open in early February. Lin, too, brings youthful talent to the LPGA Tour and will be another teenager trying to make waves in her first season. The 17-year old has strong ties to three-time LPGA Tour winner and major champ, Shanshan Feng and hopes to become the second Chinese-born player to win on Tour. Lin hails from the same hometown as Feng and says it was the Tour veteran’s father who introduced her to the game back in China. She already has three professional wins (all on the China-LPGA) and has had solid performances as a non-member on several big stages on the LPGA Tour already. Lin tied for 17th at the RICOH Women’s British Open and tied for 23rd in front of her compatriots at the Reignwood LPGA Classic last year.
Golf Channel will provide daily live coverage of the Pure Silk-Bahamas: Thursday, January 23 and Friday, January 24, 11:30-2:30pm; Saturday, January 25 and Sunday, January 26, 3-5pm, all times ET. I’ll, of course, also provide my regular daily wrap-up of each round. Have you placed your bets yet?