SBJ/January 9-15, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

LPGA adds live TV hours, more North American events

Two of the complaints most frequently heard at the LPGA are that the tour doesn’t have enough domestic events and that too much of its TV coverage is tape-delayed. Commissioner Mike Whan said last week that the LPGA is addressing both of those critiques in 2012.

All of the tour’s weekend telecasts on Golf Channel, which is entering the third year of a 10-year LPGA contract, will be live this year, a significant increase over the previous two years.

The LPGA also is beefing up its schedule with four new tournaments, plus the return of the Jamie Farr Toledo event. That will give the tour nine events overseas and 18 North American tournaments.

The full schedule will be released this week.

“We want to be three things,” Whan said. “We want to be a tour made up of the best players in the world, and we want to have fans, sponsors and media partners from around the world. Those are happening. The third thing is that the U.S. is our home. We’re a U.S.-based company. Players around the world move here, they buy homes here, and they want more U.S.-based tournaments. We’re working very hard to do that.”

Toledo, a new event in Hawaii and a new tournament outside of Toronto give the tour three additions to what Whan calls the domestic calendar in 2012. Whan considers tournaments in North America as domestic events.

The LPGA is losing one U.S. event, the 36-year-old Springfield, Ill., tournament, which couldn’t renew State Farm as the title sponsor.

“When you consider that we renewed eight of nine title sponsors and 10 of 11 marketing partnerships, that represents a lot of positive trends,” Whan said.

Whan said he sometimes bristles when the LPGA schedule is used as a gauge of the tour’s health. It’s other factors, such as sponsorship, media and overall interest, that truly measure the tour’s growth, he said.

“Sometimes the schedule is like the stock price. Price goes up when the fundamentals are solid,” Whan said. “Our players are going to be playing for more money this year, we’ve got the value proposition right with our partners and we’re getting the TV proposition right. Those are the things that go into building a solid foundation, and that’s what enables us to build on the schedule.”

In addition to the renewals, the LPGA brought on Kia, Frontier Airlines, MedjetAssist and Symetra as new partners for 2012.

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