SBD/March 23, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

LPGA Commissioner Whan Emphasizes Tour's "Approachability"

Whan is worried about losing sponsors after State Farm did not renew as title sponsor
The LPGA seems "comfortable in its own skin, and while not showing the ratings that accompany the men, its niche is finding its niche, and it has done just that," according to Jay Paris of the NORTH COUNTY TIMES. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said, "Our approachability is the key as it relates to other sports. We may not be that 3.5 Nielsen rating on CBS this Saturday, but if you bring your top 100 customers out here to spend a few days with us, I promise you they will go back with the experience of a lifetime.'' As the Kia Classic at La Costa Resort & Spa began yesterday, Paris noted what is "on the upswing is the LPGA's popularity, based on the increased number of tournaments and television exposure." The increased interest "percolating in the LPGA is linked to the improving economy." Whan said, "I tell people, if you want to go sit somewhere and watch an event, that is probably not us. But if you want to come and feel you are part of it, feel like you met a couple of athletes, I think that is what you will like about the LPGA" (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 3/22).

THE GREAT COMMUNICATOR: GOLFWEEK's Beth Ann Baldry notes sometimes Whan's "off-script comments cause his staff to hustle when he leaks something too soon, but by and large Whan's ability to communicate makes him a success in the eyes of many." Golfer Laura Diaz said, "He values your opinion even if he doesn't agree." Looking ahead to '13, Whan "hasn't lessened his anxiety." He has 13 tournaments "up for renewal," and nearly half are "in the process of renewal agreements." Referring to the longtime title sponsor that did not renew, Whan said, "As good as last year was, all I can think about is (losing) State Farm. I'm worried we might lose (another) one" (GOLFWEEK, 3/23 issue).

FLORIDA PUSH: GOLFWEEK's Alex Miceli notes Salamander Hotels & Resorts co-Founder & CEO Sheila Johnson, who also has a stake in Monumental Sports & Entertainment, has "had her eye on playing host to an LPGA event." Last week at the PGA Tour's Transitions Championship at her company's Innisbrook Golf Resort, Johnson "upped the ante for the women's game." After meeting with a potential sponsor, she "spoke about parlaying PGA Tour success into similar gains with the LPGA." Johnson said, "My first baby step or grand step that I want to make is, I want to secure [an] LPGA event at our properties." The LPGA, with 15 of its 27 tournaments this year in the U.S., "could use more domestic events." LPGA Chief Communications Officer Kraig Kann said in an e-mail, "Obviously the LPGA would be interested in listening to a concept like this one that allows the tour to put down permanent central Florida roots. At this point, however, there have been no formal discussions between the two parties" (GOLFWEEK, 3/23 issue).

A CHANGING TRADITION: GOLFWEEK’s Beth Ann Baldry writes the LPGA’s history is “a complicated flowchart of changing title sponsors and venues.” When the tour announced its plan to “add a fifth major to its slim schedule -- the Evian Masters, in 2013 -- it’s not as if the tour had uprooted a longstanding tradition.” Golfer Angela Stanford said, “Unfortunately, our tour doesn’t have long stretches of tradition. There are few tournaments we have played more than 20 years” (GOLFWEEK, 3/23 issue).
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