SBD/November 25, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan Interested In Season-Long Competition

Whan said that he liked the idea of a season-long race on the LPGA Tour
LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said that there is "nothing concrete in the works, but he is very interested in devising some sort of season-long competition that would end with a pair of trophies being given away in the season finale," according to Randall Mell of GOLFCHANNEL.com. Whan said, “I would like at some point to do something FedEx Cup like. I don’t mean playoffs, but I would like it, on the 18th green, if two trophies were being lifted and two checks presented. That would be good for my players, and I think it would be good for the tour. That’s Mike dreaming.” The LPGA Playoffs from '06-08 "culminated with a champion crowned at the ADT Championship at Trump International in West Palm Beach, Fla." The format "made the winner of the ADT Championship the overall playoff winner." Whan now "seems interested in something different than that" after watching the PGA Tour's FedExCup Playoffs. Whan: "We can’t really do playoffs, but I do like the idea of a season-long race where somebody can lift a mega trophy and a mega check.” Whan said that the current CME Group Titleholders format will be "in place for at least one more year while he has his staff explore potential season-long competitions" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 11/22).

UPPING THE ANTE: ESPNW's Mechelle Voepel noted golfer Christie Kerr is "hopeful the increase in LPGA events in 2014 ... is a sign that purses also will be increased in the next few years." Kerr said, "Then our tour would be in really good shape. ... I think if you're on the tour and you make a cut, you need to be making more than $2,200. I know we're not the same (as the PGA Tour) -- apples to oranges. Their tour is just so different than ours in the amount of everything. But I think the focus the next four to five years has got to be making the average purse of the LPGA almost $2 million (per event). And we have to have consistency in the purses, too. We need, in my opinion, $1.75 to $2.2 (million) for average tournaments, and the majors over $3 million. That's where we want to be. We have to look at every part of our tour to be able to get there." Nine of the 23 non-major tournaments in '13 had purses of $1.7-2M, while the others were between $1-1.5M. For the five majors, the purses ranged from $2-3.25M. The "average purse" in '14 for all tournaments is slated to be $1.76M, compared with $1.74M in '13 (ESPNW.com, 11/22).

CONTINUING THE UPWARD TREND: With Friday's announcement that there will be 32 LPGA events in '14, up from 28 this season, Golf Channel’s Paige Mackenzie said, “It’s at that point, where you get sponsors competing with each other to get the purses up, to get the best players in the world at their event and that’s where we want to be; that’s where we want to position ourself.” Mackenzie added, “There’s such an excitement around the LPGA right now and this schedule, it really should be celebrated. We’ve come so far as an organization the last 10 years. We were hit really hard in the 2008 economic downturn because we don’t own our events. We have basically lease agreements with tournament owners and when the tournament owner loses the title sponsor, the event’s done. We can’t supplement it because we don’t own it, so we’re in a position now to be celebrated and this schedule is just proof of that" (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 11/23). LPGA player President Vicki Goetze-Ackerman said, "All our players feel really good about our leadership and our staff and the progress we’ve made as a tour to get back to that level we were once at. We know we still have work to do to improve things even more, but the schedule’s a great testament to our leadership." LPGA CMO Jon Podany said of securing sponsors, "We aren't starting conversations with 'What's wrong with the LPGA?' anymore" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 11/22).

GOING GLOBAL? GOLFCHANNEL.com's Mell noted Whan "isn’t suggesting anything is in the works" as far playing a major in Asia, but he "thinks it is a natural evolution in the women’s game." Whan: “Whenever you walk into a media room in Asia, the first question you’re asked is `Will there ever be an Asian major?’ And I say yes, and they all start scribbling. I say I don’t know when, and I don’t know where.” He added, “Can they hold it? Of course. The golf courses are unbelievable. The fanfare is crazy, the TV is good, and players like playing there" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 11/22).
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