By Alex Holmes
The first stop of the 2021 LPGA Tour is Lake Buena Vista, Florida, with Tranquilo Golf Course hosting the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions from January 21–24. Reigning champion Gaby Lopez will look to defend her title against a field that includes players in the top 10 of the world rankings, such as Nelly Korda (USA), Danielle Kang (USA) and Brooke Henderson (Canada). This year’s edition will also include a celebrity tournament with over 50 players—entertainers, professional athletes and musicians—hitting the links.
Lopez, from Mexico, won the 2020 event in dramatic fashion. After finishing in a three-way tie with Japan’s Nasa Hataoka and South Korea’s Inbee Park, it took one extra day and seven rounds of sudden death for Lopez to win the second edition of the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. Henderson just missed the sudden death finale, as she finished tied for fourth. Nelly Korda, the fourth-ranked player in the world, finished tenth last year. As the current fifth-ranked player in the world, Kang will look to improve on her twelfth-place finish from a year ago. The tournament’s purse, or pool of prize money given to the event’s top finishers, is $1,200,000. This leg of the LPGA Tour is worth 500 points toward the CME Globe.
The event’s celebrity tournament features high profile athletes such as NBA all-stars Ray Allen and Vince Carter. The NFL will be well represented, with Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins among several football players in the field. The MLB has a group of former World Series Champions competing in the mix with Brian McCann, Jon Lester and Joe Carter putting their irons to the test. Annika Sörenstam is the only woman competing in the celebrity competition. Fans will enjoy watching Sörenstam, a 10-time LPGA champion, take on the guys. The Swedish pro was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2003 and retired in 2008. The purse for the celebrity tournament is valued at $500,000. A list of all the celebrity tournament contestants is found here.
The LPGA made the most out of 2020’s uncertainty brought on by COVID-19. The 2020 LPGA Tour consisted of 18 tournaments, including four of its five major championships, as well as the CME Group Tour Championship, the association said in a press release. This year, the 72nd season of the LPGA Tour, has 34 official events on the slate for a total of $75 million in prize money.
The next two legs of the LPGA Tour will stay in Florida, with the Gainbridge Championship taking place in Orlando next month, followed by the Drive On Championship in Ocala in March.
Fans can follow the event live by tuning into the Golf Channel on Thursday and Friday, and then switch over to NBC on Saturday and Sunday. The event begins at noon on Thursday. More information on the event and its broadcast schedule is found here.