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  • LPGA'S MECHEM LOOKS BACK ON TENURE, AHEAD TO TOUR'S FUTURE

         At the end of this year, LPGA Commissioner Charles Mechem
    will step down ending a five-year reign at the helm of women's
    professional golf.  Mecham leaves with a 38-event schedule and
    $24M in purses, up from 37 and $18.4M in '91.  In addition, the
    LPGA now has an all-time high of 29 licensees and 26 national TV
    appearances.  Mechem spoke with THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY this
    week, assessing his tenure and the future of the LPGA.  Excerpts
    follow:
         THE DAILY:  Looking back on your five years as commissioner,
    what accomplishments were most significant?  And are there any
    goals which have gone unfinished?
         MECHEM:  The accomplishments kind of fall into a couple of
    categories -- those that are quantifiable and those that aren't.
    In the quantifiable category, purse increases have been pretty
    dramatic in the last five years.  By the time I finish they'll be
    up almost 50% from where I started, up to around $25 million.  We
    have added about 35 new companies to the LPGA either as sponsors
    or as licensees, now that's not to suggest we haven't lost any
    because we have lost some too.  We've added far more than we've
    lost.  The depth and quality of the talent on tour is
    dramatically greater and deeper than it was.  Those are the kind
    of things you can see and add up.  Every bit as important as
    those, and maybe more important in the long run, is the mood and
    the feeling and the attitude of the Tour and those who follow it.
    It's a very upbeat attitude now, the players feel very positive,
    they feel very strongly about their future and success that lies
    ahead of them. ... As far as unaccomplished goals, nothing really
    of any great consequence.  I would have liked to have added a
    couple more events in the early part of our year, and I may do
    that yet before I'm done.
         THE DAILY:  What are the top priorities facing your
    successor?
         MECHEM:   We need to continue to add events.  We need to
    continue to get prize money up.  Although we've made a lot of
    progress, we still have a lot to do in the area of additional
    television coverage, which is extremely important.  The time for
    the development of a mini-tour, a developmental tour, has about
    arrived on the LPGA Tour.  I have not felt that it was critical
    in the last several years, although I think it will be in the
    next five years.  Then, very honestly, to continue to attack and
    break down, if you will, the continuing reluctance on the part of
    some companies and some individuals to embrace women's sports.
         THE DAILY:  Assess the LPGA's TV presence.
         MECHEM:  It's better this year by a long shot than it has
    ever been before and there are several reasons for that.  Number
    one, twelve of our events this year are on the new Golf Channel,
    so that gives us a dramatically increased television presence as
    a result of it being around 90 hours of coverage.  In addition to
    that, all four of our major events this year -- the Championship,
    the Open, the Dinah, and the du Maurier -- will be televised on
    all four days of their playing, and that's never happened.  In
    addition, several of our events have expanded their network
    coverage and then we've got something like 15 or so more hours of
    cable TV coverage on ESPN and Prime than we had last year.  So,
    all in all, we're moving in the right direction.  The arrangement
    that we have is a very positive one.  Obviously, the degree to
    which the Golf Channel succeeds is critical to us, probably more
    important to us than the other tours because of the number of
    events that we're having covered.  That will take a few years to
    sort that out, but assuming the Golf Channel makes it, and I
    firmly believe it will, then I think this is a good arrangement.
         THE DAILY:  What was your strategy for attracting new
    sponsors?
         MECHEM:  We are not trying to compete with the men's tour.
    We don't go out and say we're better than the men's tour or we're
    better than the Senior Tour, we basically say that women's golf
    is growing, the depth of the quality of talent is growing
    rapidly.  We have perhaps the most outgoing, warm, personable,
    attractive athletes in professional sports, and we have a tour
    where the talent is better every year because of the growth of
    women's golf.  So I say very honestly that you can get an event
    of the women's tour and enjoy virtually all the benefits you get
    on the men's tour in terms of the pro-am and all the rest -- and,
    you can also merchandise and market the fact that you are
    supporting a women's professional organization.  On top of all
    that, we play for smaller purses which I don't mean is good, but
    it means the sponsors can have an event on the women's tour for
    less money.
         THE DAILY:  What are some of the things that the Tour is
    doing to help sponsors leverage their investment?
         MECHEM:  We do a couple of things.  First -- and maybe it's
    the syndrome of being number two and working hard to grow -- we
    encourage our players, and I think with pretty considerable
    success, to work hard to give the sponsor the value received in
    terms of the way they interact on the golf course:  their
    attitude in the pro-ams, their availability to the media, their
    availability to the sponsors for special events, and all the
    things that regrettably are kind of going the other way in
    professional sports.  We're very anxious to be looked upon as
    athletes who are approachable and remember who is paying the
    bill.  The other thing is to  say to sponsors, if you sponsor an
    LPGA event, you not only get the golf but you have an opportunity
    to market in a very visible way the fact that you are supporting
    a women's professional organization.  Do that with your employee
    work force, do that with your customer base, do it through the
    media, and so on.  Increasingly, companies are doing that.
         THE DAILY:  What is the LPGA doing to take advantage of the
    growing interest in golf among women executives?
         MECHEM:  We cooperate with Gillette in sponsoring 16 events,
    called Gillette Executive Women's Golf Clinics.  These are done
    all around the country and these are ways to introduce executive
    women into the world of golf, with LPGA help, to get women into
    using golf in their career development.  These events are
    absolute sellouts everywhere.  They normally involve 200 to 300
    women for a day.  We started out a few years ago with six or
    eight, and then they grew to ten, then 12, and now 16, and the
    skies the limit.  We now have something over 50 junior golf
    programs around the country of one form or another and that's our
    way of getting the LPGA imprint, if you will, on the minds of
    young women when they start playing the game.  We cooperate as
    intensely as we can with the executive women's golf leagues which
    now serve thousands of women all over the U.S.
         THE DAILY:  There seems to be two views on promoting sports
    -- either sell the game or sell the stars.  Where should the LPGA
    fall on this question?  And are there emerging stars who can
    carry the tour, enough U.S. stars?
         MECHEM:  We can really sell both because with women's golf
    growing, and for that matter golf in general growing, we'd be
    foolish not to sell ourselves as golfers, completely apart from
    the women's aspect of it.  In other words, we're part of a fast
    growing sport.  But on top of that, we've got some very very
    attractive and exciting young players and players that have been
    around for a long time as well.  So, we try to do both -- promote
    the women's aspect of the game, but also sell and market the
    stars, both established and the newer ones.  I believe there are
    going to be more great stars in the next decade than there were
    in the last.
    

    Print | Tags: ESPN, LPGA, People and Pop Culture, Walt Disney
  • NAMES IN THE NEWS

         The Pistons yesterday fired coach DON CHANEY and announced
    the resignation of team VP/Basketball Ops BILLY MCKINNEY.
    McKinney was not expected to be rehired after his contract
    expired in June, according to the DETROIT NEWS.  McKinney claimed
    that internal leaks to the press led to his demise: "I felt like
    Rodney King.  Every time I'd get up, I was getting kicked."
    Former Bulls Coach/TNT Broadcaster DOUG COLLINS is expected to be
    hired as coach and possibly GM (DETROIT NEWS, 4/27)....Sixers
    Coach JOHN LUCAS has relinquished ownership of the Miami Tropics
    USBL team (USA TODAY, 4/27)....ROSS GLATZER has resigned as
    President of Prodigy Services Co.  He will be replaced by EDWARD
    BENNETT, former President of Viacom's VH-1 (WALL STREET JOURNAL,
    4/27)....JOHN MCENROE will join the over-35 Champions Tour today
    in Moscow.  JIMMY CONNORS has won 11 of the 12 events on the
    newly established tour (N.Y. TIMES, 4/27)....Bruin ADAM OATES was
    recently named "Sexiest Hockey Player" by the U.S. Television Fan
    Association.  Oats will appear in the film "Cass" this summer
    with actor MARTIN SHEEN (Liz Smith, NEWSDAY, 4/26)....DALE
    MURPHY, JULIUS ERVING and ROBERTO CLEMENTE will be inducted in to
    the World Sports Humanitarian Hall-Of-Fame.  Murphy, from "CBS
    This Morning": "Being able to get involved in some great
    charities and getting to know some great people has always been
    one of the highlights in my career" (CBS, 4/27).  JAN BAGIN, Exec
    Director of the Czech Baseball Association, is seeking financial
    assistance to help build a National Baseball Centre in Prague
    (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/27).
    

    Print | Tags: CBS, Chicago Bulls, Comcast-Spectacor, Detroit Pistons, Palace Sports & Entertainment, Philadelphia 76ers, People and Pop Culture, TBS/TNT, Viacom
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