SBD/May 29, 2014/Events and Attractions

LPGA, PGA of America Team Up For New Major Championship, With KPMG As Title Sponsor

Westchester Country Club hosts the debut of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship
The LPGA and the PGA of America are teaming up to create a new major championship for women’s golf. Accounting firm KPMG will be the title sponsor of the event, which will be played in June '15 and will be televised by Golf Channel and NBC. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship will debut next year at Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., and will rotate around major markets. Future sites have not been determined yet, but KPMG Global Chair John Veihmeyer said, "We're very focused on the major markets: New York, Chicago, the West Coast, maybe San Francisco. We're looking for world-class sites that will attract these women leaders." The new event will replace the Wegmans LPGA Championship as the fifth women's major. KPMG also will create a women’s leadership summit that will be held the Wednesday before the tournament begins. KPMG has had a presence in golf through its player deals with Phil Mickelson and, more recently, Stacy Lewis, but this marks the firm’s first tournament sponsorship (Michael Smith, Staff Writer). In Rochester, Sal Maiorana in a front-page piece notes the city, which "played host to both the LPGA and PGA championships in 2013, will be without a top-level professional golf event in 2015, and possibly for many years to come." It is "expected" that after the new event debuts in '15, the LPGA "will try to procure dates with other major venues such as Winged Foot and Shinnecock Hills, past hosts for the men's U.S. Open." LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan has "stated on numerous occasions that he wants his players competing on the world's best courses." Ultimately, the decision "came down to money." The LPGA can "cash in more through corporate sponsorships" in the N.Y. area than Rochester. KPMG also "appears willing to pay higher operational costs" (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 5/29). GOLF DIGEST's Ron Sirak notes while the new event "will travel, with no permanent home," the preference for KPMG is to play it in the N.Y. area "as often as possible." On the years when the men have majors in the N.Y. area, "Chicago, Houston and Atlanta are cities KPMG ... would consider" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 5/29).

RISING TIDE: Lewis said of the new event, "We have a huge purse at a great golf course ... on network TV, which is something we've needed for a while" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 5/29). GOLFWEEK's Beth Ann Nichols writes the LPGA's "2014 momentum just shifted into high gear." PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua also said that he hopes the summit to be held around the event "becomes a can't-miss event for leaders from around the country and the world." Nichols notes Whan "phoned Bevacqua with the idea last year and within five minutes of the conversation, Bevacqua told him to 'stop selling.'" Bevacqua said, "I think what's critical is we're going to rotate this event." Nichols writes that is "music to the ears of LPGA professionals, who have fought for years to play on historic tracks that carry name recognition." Whan said that "when he approached some of the LPGA's biggest stars of the past and present about changes to the tour's championship, they bristled at first at the name change." But as Whan "continued with the rest of the plan, the Hall of Famers wanted to high-five over the phone." This marks the "first-ever partnership between the PGA of America and LPGA and it's coming at a time when the tour is bursting with talent and momentum" (GOLFWEEK.com, 5/29). Bevacqua and Whan appeared on Golf Channel's "Morning Drive" today to discuss the new event. Whan said of partnering with the PGA of America and KPMG, "I would say partnerships work when you have a common goal and the good news about this, from the very beginning, the goal was common. ... The first corporate partner we talked to was KPMG." Bevacqua said of the planned business summit, "We needed to define a business partner and we found one in KPMG that, quite frankly, thought bigger than we did. ... It’s going to be a celebration of the women’s game and quite honestly, a celebration of women in business that week” ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 5/29).

HARD TO SAY GOODBYE: In Rochester, Leo Roth writes, "No LPGA in Rochester? It seems surreal." That nearly 40 years of "goodwill, friendships, charity fundraising and history meant nothing to an ambitious commissioner with an inflated view of his tour and a new generation of players who've grown up feeling entitled to more." In the "short-term, it's a no-brain, money grab for the LPGA." Whan just "convinced KPMG and downstate golf clubs to take a gamble on a tour that's irrelevant and hardly must-see TV for the mainstream sports fan, and his players will sing his praises." But the LPGA "worked in Rochester because we're a rabid niche golfing market." The players were "big fishes in a small pond." If not for late Wegmans Chair Robert Wegman, the LPGA "likely would've dog-legged it out of Rochester years ago." It also is "no secret Wegman's family was looking for a graceful way out of its title sponsorship." It is a regional company "with no need for national exposure." Roth: "Is a regular tour stop in Rochester possible again? Maybe. But who sponsors it, would Whan want it, and would anyone care again after five years as a major?" (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 5/29).

BIGGER PAY DAYS AHEAD: In Philadelphia, Joe Juliano noted with the LPGA schedule "basically in place," Whan's next emphasis is "on the growth of purses." Tournaments this year "offer an average of around" $1.75M in prize money, "boosted by an average of nearly" $2.8M for five majors. Whan: "Everybody wants to make sure they've got the strongest field and the most TV exposure, and I think you'll see a pretty significant leap [in purses]. I've never told a sponsor what their purse should be. I tell a sponsor what the highest and the lowest is and they make that decision because purses are where you want them to be in relation to the rest of the field" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/28).
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