The 2019 golf season was full of highs and lows and unexpected returns. Golf tournaments throughout the world saw some fierce competition as old greats and new stars alike took to some of the world’s most prestigious golf courses to prove that they had what it takes to go home with the trophy. Men’s golf saw some exceptional performances throughout the major championships. Once again, Tiger Woods was the talk of the town as he stunned audiences by winning his fifth Masters Tournament, and by only one stroke. He would later this year go on to win the Zozo Championship and tie Sam Snead for most wins on a PGA Tour with 82. The other player that everyone was watching this year was Rory McIlroy, winning for times this year and rising in the ranks to number two. Meanwhile, women’s golf saw some remarkable golfers win their first majors. In fact, all of the winners of the five LPGA Majors were first-time major winners this year!
In the competition for world rankings, the battle was fierce. Brooks Koepka (USA) began the year at number one, only to be knocked out of the spot by Justin Rose (ENG) who would spend the early months of the year vying for the number one spot with Dustin Johnson (USA). However, in May, Koepka regained the number one spot and has maintained it to today with some truly impressive major wins. The women’s competition has welcomed some rising stars, with the top ranking players climbing drastically in the ranks over the last year. World number three Nelly Korda (USA) had a drastic improvement in her performance and ranking, starting the year ranked 23rdand slowly climbing her way to number three in just 12 short months. It is Jin Young Ko (KOR), however, who is finishing the year at the top spot after an exceptional season.
Brooks Koepka was born in the United States in West Palm Beach, Florida in 1990. As the state with the most golf courses in the US, one is rarely far from a golf course when growing up in Florida, so it is no wonder that Koepka eventually found his way to one. Koepka grew up in a family of athletes; in fact, his great uncle was a professional baseball player, winning two World Series with the Pittsburgh Pirates. When Koepka was 10, he fractured his nose, and since he wasn’t able to play contact sports while recovering, he took up golf. His practice paid off and at the age of 13, he competed against his father and won, claiming their local club’s championship title.
Koepka attended Florida State University where he played golf with incredible success. While in college, he won three events, earned the ACC Golfer of the Year honor two times, and broke multiple records at his college, showing that he had what it takes to succeed as a professional golfer. In 2012, at the age of 22, he entered the professional golfing arena and began his career, though it was not where most American golfers begin their careers. When he began his professional career, Koepka focused on European golf competitions competing on the Challenge Tour and European Tour. On the Challenge Tour, he was incredibly successful, racking up a remarkable four wins (one in 2012 and three in early 2013).
With his three Challenge Tour wins, Koepka qualified for the European Tour for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. During this time, Koepka began to focus on improving his skills, working closely with legendary coach Claude Harmon III, son of legendary instructor Butch Harmon, on his swing. Throughout 2014, Koepka played in the European Tour and the PGA Tour. He played competitively at PGA events, such as the US Open, and won an open on the European Tour. That same year, he was nominate for the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.
Throughout the next few years, Koepka would prove himself to be a competitor to be reckoned with. He would continue to compete in majors and often finished in the top 25 at these events. In 2016, he competed with the winning USA Ryder Cup team going 3-1-0 in his Ryder Cup debut in the USA victory over Europe at Hazeltine National at the 2016 matches. All his hard work paid off when in 2017 he won his first major championship at the US Open, tying Rory McIlroy’s 2011 record for lowest score at the championship.
He started the 2018 season with a wrist surgery that left him out of commission for a time, causing him to withdraw from the Masters Tournament. He would return, however, to compete in the US Open where he won the title for the second year in a row, making him one of only seven golfers to achieve the feat and the first since 1989. Throughout 2018, Koepka continued to win tournaments, including the PGA Championship, with his October win in the CJ Cup propelling him to number one in the world rankings for the first time.
In 2019, Koepka would secure his name in the history books by winning the PGA Championship for the second year in a row, defending his title, and becoming the first golfer in history to hold back-to-back titles in two majors simultaneously. He continues to perform spectacularly in golf tournaments and was twice named the PGA of America Player of the Year. Known for his brashness both on and off the course, Koepka keeps fans watching and is not worried about making friends. With his steady play and genuine talent, it would be no surprise if he continues to impress golf fans for years to come.
Jin Young Ko
Jin Young Ko hails from South Korea and has quickly become one of the most watched golfers of her time. At 24 years old, Ko skyrocketed to the top of the golf rankings through sheer talent and success. Her rise has been truly meteoric, named the LPGA Rookie of the Year in 2018, it only took her one year to secure the top spot in women’s golf as the number one ranked player in the LPGA.
Ko started playing golf at the young age of seven before beginning her professional career in 2013 at the age of 18, competing on the LPGA of Korea Tour. Throughout the first few years of her career, she would sweep the competition, winning 10 times on the LPGA of Korea Tour. Ko worked her way towards LPGA glory as runner-up at the 2015 Ricoh Women’s British Open. In 2017, she began to gain recognition outside of the Korean tour, winning the 2017 LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship as a non-member.
In 2018, Ko decided to take up LPGA Tour membership. At her first LPGA tournament, the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open, Ko finished in first, becoming only the second player in LPGA history to win a debut tournament as a member. Her debut year with the LPGA Tour continued to be exceptional as she finished in the top 10 of 13 tournaments. It was in 2018 that Ko debuted on the world rankings list and remarkably finished off the year as the number 10 player in the world. Her performance had been so spectacular, that she secured the Rookie of the Year title with four events still remaining in the year.
In her second year with the LPGA Tour, Ko excelled above the rest. Throughout 2019, she has garnered four additional wins, two of which were majors. She jumped to the number one position in the rankings in April 2019 after winning the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and the ANA Inspiration. She also won the Evian Championship and the CP Women's Open, shooting a tournament record in the later and winning by a whopping five strokes.
Having already snagged a number of awards and recognitions, Jin Young Ko deservedly won Player of the Year in 2019. The award was given with a number of events still left in the season because Ko had performed so strongly that no player could catch up. She currently leads the tour in money, is first in scoring, and took home the Vare Trophy for low scoring. In just two years with the LPGA Tour, Ko has proven herself to be a fierce competitor and talented golfer. Her commitment to success will propel her through a successful career, and fans will enjoy watching her sweep the competition throughout the LPGA.