SBD/January 7, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

LPGA Unveils 25 Event Schedule For '11, Including 12 Int'l Tourneys

The Tres Marias Championship in Mexico may still be postponed due to security concerns

The LPGA "unveiled a 25 event schedule for 2011 on Thursday which features a brand new 54-hole, stroke-play event known as the Founders Cup as well as the resurrection of an event known as Titleholders, which will close out the year," according to the GLOBE & MAIL. The new season tees off in February with events in Thailand and Singapore before moving to Phoenix for the March 18-20 RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, which "will feature 132 players who will forgo a tournament purse with the money going towards charity." The season "will close with the inaugural Titleholders, a season finale with a field made up of three qualifiers from every official LPGA Tour tournament, which will feature the LPGA's richest first-place prize of $500,000." The March 31-April 3 Kraft Nabisco Championship, the season's first major, "will celebrate its 40th anniversary and follows the Founders Cup and the Kia Classic." Following the Kraft Nabisco Championship is the Tres Marias Championship in Morelia, Mexico, though LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said that the event "may have to be postponed due to security concerns in the region due to the ongoing drug wars in Mexico" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/7).

HIT THE ROAD: In L.A., Diane Pucin notes 12 tournaments will be held outside the U.S. this season, "one more than last year." The list includes two tournaments in Mexico and seven in Asia. The tour "will offer $43.65 million in prize money, $3 million more than a year ago." Whan: "We are a lot like a lot of the business partners that sponsor us. A lot of times they'll say, 'Mike, in the last 10 or 15 years we used to have all of our business in America and not a lot overseas. Now we have a lot of overseas and a little bit in America.' I'm a lot less worried after a year in the job. I've seen an interest in domestic title sponsors" (L.A. TIMES, 1/7). He added, "If your goal is to stimulate, generate and enhance women's golf worldwide, you don't do that with a fax and an e-mail, you don't do that with an occasional telecast. If you want to excite golf in China, go to China. … I really believe that what we've created on the LPGA is worldwide interest" ("Golf Central Pre-Game," Golf Channel, 1/6). Golfer Christina Kim said, "I'm a fairly positive person, and we will have to take advantage of the situation and expand the brand of women's golf worldwide. Obviously, I'd love to have 30, 35, 40 events on our schedule this year, but we won't see that for a few years. The economy just won't let us right now. It's going to be tough for the rookies and those outside the top 50 on the money list, but where we're at right now is we have to follow the money. We just have to do whatever we can to stay afloat" (USA TODAY, 1/7).

CHARITABLE CAUSE: GOLF WORLD's Ron Sirak wrote the Founders Cup that "kicks off the U.S.-based portion of the LPGA schedule in March is either a great idea, a dangerous precedent or a desperation move, depending on how you look at it -- or all three." All of the $1.3M purse is "going to charity," specifically the LPGA Foundation's LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program. The players essentially are "doing a benefit for the tour." The Founders Cup "will provide complimentary hotel rooms for the players, rooms for caddies to share and a stipend to help with caddie fees." Players "will get points for the Rolex World Ranking, Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and the dollars won will count on the money list," but there "will be no direct deposit made into the player's checking account." Sirak: "Now the fact the Founder's Cup will raise money to help with a grow-the-game program is a good thing -- in fact, it is a great thing. ... But the dilemma for the LPGA is that with so few full-field, U.S.-based events, having one in which there is no prize money is extremely inconvenient, to say the least" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 1/6). GOLFWEEK's Beth Ann Baldry cited several players as saying that they are "on board with the concept." But "not everyone who finished near the top of the money list in 2010 shares that enthusiasm, though they're unwilling to share those views publicly" (GOLFWEEK.com, 1/6).

LENDING A HELPING HAND: PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said Whan "has consistently reached out to me and our team on a number of fronts: sponsorships, scheduling, tournament management." Finchem: "He came into the job wanting to learn, and I think he's done a good job of that. You know, the LPGA has its own set of challenges that they're dealing with. They've got a reliance on a lot of tournaments outside the United States. They have a heavily international field of players every week, so they've got to maintain their support in U.S. markets with that internationalization. It's not easy. On the other hand, they have the advantage of being able to stage and market their product very much on a global basis. So I'm confident they'll work through this" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 1/5). Whan said the biggest challenge facing the LPGA is "getting our product on display more often because when we're on, we win." Whan: "The product sells itself. … Our players get it. They really understand that they do more than just play golf. They connect with the fans, they connect with the sponsors, and so all we really have to do is just put it on display" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 1/7).

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