LPGA, Korean LPGA
This 20-year-old phenom holds the top spot for the second consecutive year. She won 10 tournaments (and had 10 other top fives) in 30 starts on three tours. She won her first major title, the British Women's Open, and was the first player to sweep all three majors on the Korean tour. Shin also won the LPGA's season-ending ADT Championship and its $1 million first prize. She has 26 victories in her nascent career and will officially join the LPGA in '09.
You could call '08 the Year That Might Have Been for Woods, except that his half year was sensational. Surgery on his left knee ended Woods's season after his victory in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, where an array of amazing shots, a Cinderella rival in Rocco Mediate and painful microfractures in the knee made for an unforgettable major. Woods played seven times on a bum leg and won at Bay Hill, Dubai, Torrey Pines (twice) and the Match Play.
Mexico's gift to golf owned the first half of the season, winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship and just about everything else—she took six of her first nine starts by a combined 38 strokes—but after a pair of deaths in the family, Ochoa lost her momentum and won only once more. Nevertheless, she finished the season as the unrivaled queen of the LPGA, ranking first in greens hit in regulation, driving distance, scoring and earnings.
Duramed Futures tour
Hurst's decision to forgo college and turn pro looks like a good one after a five-win year. She toppled the Futures' 54-hole scoring record while winning the Jalapeno Classic in McAllen, Texas, with an 18-under-par 198, and passed Beth Bauer's single-season earnings mark by winning $93,107. Hurst, 18 and from Melbourne, Fla., finished among the top 10 in 10 of 14 starts. She made this list last year, too, by dominating the American Junior Golf Association.
Born in South Korea but now a citizen of New Zealand, the 18-year-old Lee could be golf's Next Big Thing. A four-time winner in '08, he made 13 birdies in 32 holes on Pinehurst's formidable No. 2 course in his victorious U.S. Amateur final, won the prestigious Western Amateur and had impressive showings in two pro starts—an 11th at the Australian Masters and a 20th at the PGA Tour's Wyndham Championship.
Mike Van Sickle
Spare me the raised eyebrow. Yes, Mike is my son, but the numbers don't lie. In 20 starts he won seven times, finished among the top five on six other occasions and is the fourth-ranked amateur in the world. Mike, a 21-year-old senior, capped '08 with a closing 63 to win the Western Refining All-America Classic against a select field of 26 All-Americas. Mike swept the Pennsylvania Open and Amateur in '08 (a feat previously achieved only by Jay Sigel).
Ladies European tour
Nocera seems to prefer traveling for her trophies—her five wins came in Sweden, Scotland, Norway, the Netherlands and Spain. Her final victory, at the Madrid Masters, vaulted her into first place on the tour's money list with more than ?384,000. Nocera, 33, a native of France who lives in Biarritz, had seven other top 10 finishes this year and broke Laura Davies's 72-hole scoring record when she won the G�teborg ( Sweden) Masters with a 29-under 259.
A senior from Mobile, Sucher enjoyed an eight-victory year. He successfully defended his Cardinal Amateur title in Greensboro, N.C., shot a course-record 62 en route to tying for first in the NCAA East Regional, won the Azalea Amateur, was unbeaten in three matches in the U.S. vs. Japan Championship in Tokyo and won four college events, including the Conference USA Championship.
Mueller, 25, from Mesa, Ariz., stayed home and mopped up in the Gateway's Desert Series, played in the Phoenix area. In addition to winning four times, he had 12 other top five finishes, made the cut in 25 of 26 starts and led the tour in earnings with $171,168. Mueller went 17 under par for 54 holes while triumphing at Trilogy Golf Club and had closing 64s to win at Talking Stick and Vista Verde.
Despite a minor slump this fall, Blumenherst, who is a senior, remains a collegiate legend. This year she won the Women's U.S. Amateur, led the U.S. team to victory against Great Britain and Ireland in the Curtis Cup, and won a pair of college titles in the spring, bringing her career total to 11. She accepted her second consecutive Honda Award as collegiate player of the year during the Blue Devils' football game last month against North Carolina State.