SBD/March 12, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

LPGA Begins Season In U.S. This Week Trying To Forge New Identity

Whan has delivered a schedule of 27 tournaments worth $47M in prize money
The LPGA has “reached a significant turning point” as it begins the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, its first tournament of the season on U.S. soil, according to Paola Boivin of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Many of the world's “finest female golfers will converge” for the tournament this week in Phoenix, yet “most of them -- including arguably the sport's greatest current star -- are anonymous to American sports fans.” The league has “tried to market itself on sex appeal and approachability, but only with mixed success.” Gains made “during a period of modest growth a decade ago were lost during the recession.” The LPGA now is “trying to forge a new identity.” Guided by second-year Commissioner Mike Whan and “buoyed by early promising results, the LPGA is moving quickly to reinvent itself even as it respects its past, and create a future of global prosperity.” Whan said, "We need to get to know their stories, the strife that got them there." Boivin noted “more than half” of the ‘12 LPGA Tour players “were born outside the U.S., many of them Asians.” In the “most recent tournament, the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore, 26 of the top 60 players were Asian; 18 of those were from South Korea.” Still, Whan “believes that global doesn't have to mean invisible from an American marketing standpoint.” He has “delivered a schedule of 27 tournaments worth $47 million in prize money -- about $6 million more than each of the past two seasons -- and renewed eight of nine tournament contracts and 10 of 11 marketing agreements.” Whan: "We've come through a tough time. And at the end of the day it goes to what really matters, the 25 or 30 customers who keep the LPGA in business" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/11).
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