Golfer Ariya named LPGA Player of the Year

It was quite a home stretch in 2018 for Thai golfer Ariya Jutanugarn who won the points-based Player of the Year Award for the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) last week, while also recapturing the world number one ranking and earning more prize money on tour this year than any of her competitors.

“It feels great to win this award for a second time, and I’m really excited about that,” Ariya said upon receiving the news that she was named Player of the Year. She had previously won the award in 2016. “I’ve played well this season, and it’s a huge honor for me to have my name on this trophy again.”

She was still playing when she learned she had won the award, leading the Blue Bay LPGA tournament in Hainan, China by shooting seven-under par after two rounds, giving her a four-shot lead. Two more LPGA tournaments remain this season before the tour stops for a winter break.

Ariya’s victories and accolades have made her arguably the best-known Thai athlete ever on a global stage. At just 22 years old, her career is still in its infancy. Already a star in her homeland, she has the potential to become an international golf legend in coming years.

“During a year in which 24 different players have claimed titles in 29 LPGA events, the 22-year-old native of Thailand has been the closest to a consistent force, winning three times and posting 15 top-10 finishes in 25 starts,’’ Golf Digest said on its website.

Just one week earlier, Ariya clinched the title of top money winner in 2018. With $815,000 in first-place prize money remaining in the final events on the 2018 LPGA Tour schedule, no player can catch Ariya, who has earned $2,475,880 so far this year. She is $937,489 ahead of second-place Minjee Lee, who has $1,538,391, according to the LPGA.

Ariya also captured the LEADERS Top 10 award, with 15 top-10 finishes in 26 events played. Jin Young Ko and Lee have each earned 13 top-10 finishes to date. The LEADERS Top 10 competition awards a $100,000 bonus to the LPGA player with the most top-10 finishes through the completion of the Blue Bay LPGA.

Ariya “has a chance to sweep nearly every significant LPGA statistical marker. She is first in money earned and scoring average (69.379), and tops the points list in the season-long Race to the CME Globe standings (4,002),’’ Golf Digest said.