Top-ranked Lilia Vu of Fountain Valley and UCLA earned the LPGA Tour’s 2023 Rolex Player of the Year award after claiming her first four victories on the circuit, including two major championships, while becoming the first American to win the award since Stacy Lewis in 2014.
Ninth-ranked Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand (pictured, right) was awarded the Vare Trophy for recording the season’s lowest scoring average.
“I think it’s unreal for that to happen,” said Vu (pictured, left), who also played at Fountain Valley High. “I think last year I was telling Cole [her caddie] on the last hole, I remember after the last round, last hole, I just broke down in tears. I was just really hard on myself.
“I was definitely hard on myself this year, too, but much nicer. I came in with no expectations and tried to win every tournament that I played in. I just kept my goals really small, and I think that really helped me achieve Player of the Year.”
The 26-year-old Vu, who was the 2021 Symetra Tour Player of the Year after winning three times on that circuit, captured the 2023 Honda LPGA Thailand last February before claiming her first two major titles in the Chevron Championship in April and the AIG Women’s Open in August, before winning The ANNIKA earlier this month.
Vu, who made a birdie on the first playoff hole to beat Angel Yin of Los Angeles in the Chevron Championship at The Club at Carlton Woods in Woodlands, Texas, also posted three other top-10 finishes this season and 12 results in the top 25.
By winning the 47th AIG Women’s Open at Walton Heath Golf Club in Walton-in-the-Hills, England, Vu became the first American to win two LPGA Tour major championships in the same season since Juli Inkster of Santa Cruz and San Jose State in 1999, and rose to No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings for the first time.
Previous winners of the Player of the Year Award, which dates to 1966, include Annika Sorenstam, Kathy Whitworth, Nancy Lopez, Sandra Haynie, JoAnne Carner, Sandra Palmer, Judy Rankin, Beth Daniel, Patty Sheehan, Betsy King, Pat Bradley, Dottie Pepper, Karrie Webb, Laura Davies, Lorena Ochoa, Stacy Lewis, Lydia Ko, Aria Jutanugarn, Jin Young Ko and Sei Young Kim.
Thitikul, 20, claimed the Vare with a scoring average of 69.53. It is the 13th-lowest Vare Trophy-winning scoring average in the award’s history, tying Stacy Lewis’ 69.53 in 2014. She is the first player in the award’s history to win the Vare Trophy without earning a victory in the same season.
“You know what? I had no idea I was going to win the Vare Trophy, to be honest,” said Thitikul, who has won four times on the Ladies European Tour and was its Player of the Year in 2021. “Like I mention, in the middle of the season, I played really badly. I mean, I missed two cuts in the major events and then also not playing quite good in the middle of the year.
“I think what it really means for me when I just bounce back from [being] really uncomfortable and I don’t have any confidence there during that time. It’s just like I’m really happy that I got over that, got past it, overcome it.”
Thitikul did not win this season on the LPGA Tour, but posted 13 top-10 finishes in 21 tournaments. She won the JTBC Classic and the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2022 for her only LPGA victories and was named LPGA Tour Rookie of the Year.