Historic Atlanta Athletic Club Hosts the Game’s Best During the 2021 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship
A field featuring every one of the top 100 players from the LPGA’s 2021 money list will take on a golf course steeped in tradition when the 2021 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship tees off at Atlanta Athletic Club’s venerable Highlands Course on Thursday just outside Atlanta.
The partnership between the PGA of America, LPGA and KPMG enters its seventh year and continues to build momentum in bringing the top players in the game to some of the country’s most highly respected venues. In addition to Atlanta Athletic Club this week, future sites will include Congressional Country Club (2022), Baltusrol Golf Club (2023) and the new PGA Frisco (2025).
Already, the KPMG Women’s PGA has delivered a marquee roster of champions. In October, at Aronomink Golf Club just outside Philadelphia, South Korea’s Sei Young Kim broke through to capture her first major championship. Her stunning, record-setting round of 63 helped her establish a new mark for four-round total (266) on the way to a five-shot victory over Inbee Park.
“It was one of my goals coming into the season (2020) to win a major,” Kim said recently. “It was (an) amazing feeling to get a major win under my belt, especially the KPMG. It has been a huge confidence builder for me, for sure.”
Five of the six KPMG Women’s PGA champions currently are ranked among the top 15 in the world: Kim (2020, No. 3); Hannah Green (2019, No. 14); Danielle Kang (2017, No. 6); Brooke Henderson (2016, No. 5); and Park (2015, No. 2.). The tournament’s 2018 champion, Sung Hyun Park, currently is 32nd in the Rolex Rankings.
Just as Kim, who now owns 12 LPGA victories, collected her first major title last autumn – an accomplishment many thought was long overdue – there are several top players who are looking to follow in her footsteps in seizing that first major. Among the top candidates: World No. 3 Nelly Korda, one of the pre-tournament favorites at Aronomink a year ago, who withdrew mid-tournament with an injury. Korda will arrive in Atlanta riding some momentum; on Sunday she won the Meijer LPGA Classic in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Korda’s older sister, Jessica, is another accomplished player seeking a first major, along with Australia’s Minjee Lee and Japan’s Nasa Hataoka.
World No. 1 Jin Young Ko opted to skip the KPMG last fall, staying home in South Korea because of COVID-19, and not returning to competition in the U.S. until late in 2020. She now is back competing, and seeking her third career major after winning the ANA Inspiration and Evian Championship in 2019. Park, who is in good form (six top 10s in 2021, including a victory at the Kia Classic) and slated to be part of South Korea’s contingent headed to this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, is seeking her eighth major title, and her first since 2015. Runner-up in October, she is a three-time past champion of the LPGA Championship.
This LPGA season has featured past winners returning to form (Lydia Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn and Brooke Henderson all broke victory droughts) and has introduced new and exciting young major champions in Patty Tavatanakit (ANA Inspiration) and Yuka Saso (U.S. Women’s Open).
Atlanta Athletic Club, which has ties to Bobby Jones, a past club president, has been host to three PGA Championships (the last in 2011, with Keegan Bradley winning), a U.S. Open (1976, Jerry Pate) and U.S. Women’s Open (1990, Betsy King). In addition, the club hosted the 2014 U.S. Amateur and the 2017 Palmer Cup. This will be the first KPMG Women’s PGA to be contested in Georgia, and the first appearance for the championship in the south in more than 40 years.
AAC’s Highlands Course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1967, with course architecture work also performed by Joe Finger in 1971. Jones’ son, Rees, oversaw updates at the club in 1994 and 2016. The facility has been host to a major championship in every decade since the 1970s. AAC also will have hosted a PGA, Women’s PGA, U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open, joining Hazeltine National as the only clubs to have hosted that foursome.
“The KPMG is played at the highest caliber of golf courses each year,” said Kim, who played the course in May. “… This is an amazing golf course with history. I am excited and honored to be here to defend my title.”
One development to watch this week will be players from many countries vying one last time to make their respective Olympic squads, as the cutoff date to earn roster spots is Monday, June 28. Countries can have as many as four players as long as all four are inside the top 15 in the rankings; the U.S. currently has four players ranked 13th or higher: Nelly Korda (4), Danielle Kang (6), Lexi Thompson (7) and Jessica Korda (13). But players such as Ally Ewing (No. 18), a two-time winner this season, or Jennifer Kupcho (No. 25) could make a big move with a great week.
There are eight PGA/LPGA club professionals competing in this week’s field, including Joanna Coe, PGA Director of Instruction at Baltimore Country Club, who was the inaugural Women’s PGA Professional Player of the Year in 2019 (Coe will play in her fifth LPGA major championship) and 2020 Women’s PGA Professional of the Year Ashley Grier of the Philadelphia PGA Section. She is the PGA Assistant Professoinal at Overbrook Golf Club in Bryn Mawr, Pa.
The PGA of America, LPGA and KPMG, along with its broadcast partner, NBC, merged to help grow the game by elevating a championship that has roots back to 1955, and is the second oldest major championship in women’s golf. This week’s purse has been raised to $4.5 million, with the champion earning $675,000.
In addition to highlighting the game on grander stages, the KPMG PGA also focuses on investing in future women leaders, hosting an on-site Leadership Summit that brings together leading figures in business, politics, media and sports. This year’s KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit takes place on Wednesday, with writer/director Patty Jenkins (“Wonder Woman” and “Wonder Woman 1984”) serving as the keynote speaker. Net proceeds from the KPMG Women’s PGA and the Summit are earmarked for the KPMG Future Leaders Program.