2022 Newsmakers of the Year


Golf may be a niche sport, but in 2022, the game found its way into the mainstream, conversations sparked by two words: LIV Golf. The launch of the hotly debated circuit, controversially bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, brought anticipation and consternation with every new detail, rumored or real. Who would play, how would it work and what would it mean to have someone swoop in and spend more than $750 million alone in 2022 (with another $1.25 billion expected in 2023) in a quest to redefine the professional game?

The answer to that last question is unknown, worrisome to many, as the ripple effects of 54-hole, no-cut, $25 million tournaments on golf’s ecosystem—competing tours, major championships, governing bodies, world rankings, etc.—have only just begun. In the early wake, the game wrestles with sports washing, legal maneuvers and esoteric observations about the value of tradition and legacy versus cash.

As we embark on our annual review of the year in golf, LIV will, of course, be an underlying thread in many of the top 25 Newsmakers that appear over the next several days. Rest assured, though, there were others on our list of favorite people, events and moments that helped define the year—stories of hope and heartache that help us all remember why we love the game in the first place.

No. 23: Steven Alker

When the PGA Tour Champions was finding its footing in the 1980s and early 1990s, it carried the reputation as a “second chance” tour, a place where club pros and journeyman might find some magic that, for whatever reason, eluded them before age 50. In that sense, Steven Alker is a throwback to an earlier era. During his career, the New Zealand native made 86 PGA Tour starts, missing the cut 47 times and never finishing inside the top 10. He also played in 80 DP World Tour events, missing 42 cuts while grabbing one top-10. Yes, he was a four-time winner on the Korn Ferry Tour, but there was a reason why Alker had to Monday qualify to play in his first senior tour event 16 months ago. Impressively, he turned that start—a T-7 at the Boeing Classic—into a run of six straight top-10 finishes culminating in a victory and a tour card. With job security brewed confidence, and suddenly Alker was unstoppable. In his first nine starts of 2022, he claimed three wins and seven top-fives—including a major (the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship). Another title game in October, one of nine more top-fives in his last 14 starts, and he cruised to the season-long Schwab Cup title, only the third time a player other than Bernhard Langer had won it in eight years. Alker’s numbers are shocking in that they’re so unexpected. He finished 2022 with a 68.2 average in 75 rounds and earned $4.5 million, nearly four times his winnings on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour combined. “Just a lot of hard yards,” Alker said the secret to his success. “You know, I’ve played everywhere and I think that kind of helped today in a way just playing the PGA Tour and Australasia and Asia and Korn Ferry. It’s been an amazing journey and just to be here and to have this opportunity has been amazing.” —Ryan Herrington

On the LPGA Tour in 2022, we saw the promise of youth in a 14-year-old Monday qualifying for three straight events and a 19-year-old climbing to World No. 1. But we also saw the joy that comes when patience is rewarded in a trio of veterans pulling off their long-awaited maiden victories.

First was Ashleigh Buhai. The South African was a teen phenom growing up, winning four professional tournaments as an amateur. But since arriving on the LPGA Tour in 2008, she had gone winless. That is, until the AIG Women’s Open in August. During a historic week in which the formerly all-male Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers hosted the top women’s professionals to Muirfield for the first time, Buhai, 33, was impressively running away with the title, only to make a triple bogey on 15 and question if this would be her time or not. She limped into a playoff with In Gee Chun, but on the fourth extra hole in a race against nightfall, Buhai pulled out the sentimental victory.

Buhai’s maiden win seemed to prove inspirational. Paula Reto also grew up in South Africa before moving to the U.S. and finding golf as a teenager. The 32-year-old had played 157 LPGA events without a win until she finally broke through three weeks after Buhai at the CP Women’s Open, beating Hye-Jin Choi and Nelly Korda by a shot. A few weeks before the tournament, Reto lost her golf bag while traveling. During the wait for its return, she pulled out an old putter and found the more upright setup helped her see lines on greens better. Clearly, the change paid off.

Going 157 starts until claiming win No. 1 was nothing compared to Jodi Ewart Shadoff’s 246-event wait. A three-time European Solheim Cup team member and runner-up in the 2017 AIG Women’s Open, Ewart Shadoff hadn’t won in more than a decade on tour. In 2021, the 34-year-old Englishwoman had missed more cuts than she made. But at the LPGA Mediheal Championship in October, she finally hoisted her first LPGA trophy.

“I didn’t know if this moment would ever come,” Ewart Shadoff said through tears, echoing the sentiment of Buhai and Reto before her. Their waits were long, but ultimately worth it. —Keely Levins

If Morgan Hoffmann’s name had slipped your mind, you’re not alone. After revealing the atrophy he was suffering from in his right pectoral muscle was caused by muscular dystrophy in December 2017, the 33-year-old former All-American at Oklahoma State hadn’t played on the PGA Tour since October 2019. Presumably, he was undergoing treatments for his illness, and indeed that was the case, but in ways that shocked many in and out of the golf world. In a Golf Digest feature published in January, Hoffmann revealed that he had moved to Costa Rica with his wife Chelsea in search for a cure to the illness. Among the remedies Hoffmann attempted were ayahuasca treatments and urine therapy, which, yes, involved drinking his own urine. The story noted that Hoffmann was still in the midst of a medical exemption that dated back to 2018, but that he had only three events remaining, and per tour rules, they had to be played in 2022 or else they would be lost opportunities. So in April, Hoffmann made the trek from Costa Rica to the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, shooting a respectable 71-72 in his return to competition at Harbour Town but missing the cut. There was another early exit three weeks later at the Wells Fargo Championship, but in his last start at the Travelers Championship in June, Hoffmann made the cut but failed to earn enough money with the 68th-place finish to give him a tour card for 2023. Hoffmann later earned sponsor’s exemptions into the John Deere Classic (T-51) and the Rocket Mortgage Classic (MC), but he has not played since shooting 71-71 in Detroit in late July. What now for Hoffmann? Various interview requests from different media outlets have been made and several officials from the PGA Tour have attempted to contact him over the past few weeks, but they have all been unsuccessful. It is not clear where Hoffmann is currently living or what his plans are for competing next year. —Jay Coffin

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