LPGA Announces Two Alabama Tour Stops Next Season; Renewing Mobile Bay Event
The LPGA Mobile Bay LPGA Classic at Magnolia Grove will return in '14 and the tour also will "make a second stop in the state with the Alabama LPGA Classic at Capitol Hill's Senator Course in Prattville," according to Mark Inabinett of the Mobile PRESS-REGISTER. The Prattville location hosted the Navistar Classic from '07-12 before Navistar pulled its sponsorship. Retirement Systems of Alabama CEO David Bronner said that the tourney has "replaced Navistar's sponsorship with a collection of sponsors." Bronner said, "It's always difficult to find major sponsors, so what [it took] was a coalition together in the Montgomery region, which consists of Prattville and Montgomery and half a dozen other smaller sponsors. So what we did was really substitute a whole group for one prime sponsor." The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail will be the "presenting partner for both tournaments" (Mobile PRESS-REGISTER, 5/15). LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan said, "We'd play 40 times in Alabama if they'd let us. The golf courses are world-class. I think most people in Alabama know that, we're trying to show it to the rest of the world." He added of this week's tourney in Mobile, "Everything about this event is strong." Whan added, "In the 63-year history of the LPGA, we've never had this much TV coverage. We're really pretty blessed and ... they literally watch us around the world every time we tee it up. So this might feel like an event in Mobile, it might feel like a USA tournament, but it really is a tournament where 164 countries are going to turn on the TV and watch us play" (AL.com, 5/14).
CHANGING MAJORS? Rochester-based WHEC-NBC's Robin De Wind reported the future of the Wegmans LPGA Championship in Pittsford is unknown, as the contract between Wegmans and the LPGA only "extends through this year." Wegmans has said that the future of the tournament in the market "may hinge on having additional sponsors step forward." Tournament co-Chair Jerry Stahl: "I'm not sure whether we have a sponsor that could sponsor this event even as a tour stop, so I'm not sure what that would hold for the future of golf" (WHEC.com, 5/13). Despite Whan saying that the LPGA is "full up with five majors", the VIRGINIA GAZETTE examined what it would take to possibly bring an LPGA major to Williamsburg, Va., site of the Kingsmill Championship. What is "critical is landing a title sponsor," and a "handful of potential takers were on site" during the tournament earlier this month. Also important is attendance, as "most major tournaments on the LPGA attract more than 100,000 spectators." Whan said, "There is no reason to go through the process of 'what it takes to be a major,' as I simply don't have that to offer them (or anyone else)." He added, "At this point, Kingsmill is perfect. No reason to go down that path, unless an opportunity were to come available in the future" (VIRGINIA GAZETTE, 5/11).
FARR, FARR AWAY: In Toledo, Dave Hackenberg noted this will be the first year actor Jamie Farr's name will not be attached to the LPGA's annual stop in Toledo since the event debuted in '84. The tour in January announced the July 18-21 event would become the Marathon Classic, and tournament Exec Dir Judd Silverman said, "Jamie was fully aware we needed to fill a void financially." Silverman: "With the timing of Marathon stepping up, and considering Jamie's professional schedule and the things going on in his life, I think he felt the timing was right to step away knowing the tournament would be in good hands." Farr in an e-mail wrote, "On July 1, I'll be 79 years old and to be truthful, I am slowing down. My mind is quite a bit younger than my body usually feels. I am a hands-on individual and always enjoyed playing in every event we offered during tournament week. But I discovered recently I just cannot participate without aching for weeks after." Hackenberg noted Farr's name will "remain associated with the tourney through its scholarship program" (TOLEDO BLADE, 5/12).