LPGA Int'l Crown Organizers Bullish On Event's Potential, Corporate Sales Marks Exceeded
The LPGA's Int'l Crown begins today at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md., and Tournament Dir Rich Thomas believes the inaugural biennial event will "have the feel of a U.S. Women's Open, a Solheim Cup and possibly even soccer's World Cup all rolled into four days of match-play competition," according to Don Markus of the Baltimore SUN. LPGA Marketing & Corporate Partnerships Dir Steve Schoenfeld said a "perfect storm" could lead to the tournament being a successful first-time event. Schoenfeld said that corporate sponsorship is 40% "higher than it was" when the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship came to Baltimore in '07, an event he oversaw. Thomas, who did not disclose numbers, said, "We exceeded our corporate expectations." He added that he "expects the event to raise" between $7-7.5M from corporate sponsorships and ticket, merchandise and concession sales. Thomas said that it is "difficult to predict how many fans will attend, though it will likely be less than the 100,000 or more who attended" the '02 U.S. Senior Open at Caves Valley. But Markus noted a "recent resurgence among the American players on the LPGA tour could provide the ultimate boost to the event." In the "aftermath of soccer's World Cup, Thomas believes that a few of the early fourball matches ... could bring a sense of patriotism to Baltimore on a smaller scale from [what] many witnessed in Brazil." Thomas: "A lot of non-soccer fans were cheering on the United States, and I think we're going to get a lot of the same thing" (Baltimore SUN, 7/22). ESPNW's Mechelle Voepel wrote the biennial Solheim Cup has "become popular because most observers have a rooting interest in either the USA or European sides." But "how engaged will American fans be at Caves Valley Golf Club this week in the matches that don't involve the U.S. players?" (ESPNW.com, 7/22).
CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT: GOLFCHANNEL.com's Randall Mell wrote the Int'l Crown "is the Solheim Cup times four." It is eight countries "battling to lay claim as the world’s best golfing nation in the women’s game." American golfer Stacy Lewis said, “This is our version of the Presidents Cup. I think we needed to get the rest of the world involved, but you can’t change the Solheim Cup. It has too many traditions. I like this concept. I like how it brings all the countries together." Australian golfer Lindsey Wright added, "I'm always jealous watching the Solheim Cup. I wish it was me. It looks like so much fun" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 7/22). In Palm Springs, Larry Bohannan wrote the Int'l Crown is "important for golf and the women's tour because it tries to get rid of the concept that the LPGA is nothing but Koreans winning everything in sight, or even that Americans these days are on a roll." There "also will be teams from Thailand, Australia, Sweden, Spain, Chinese Taipei and Japan in the event." The "idea is a team competition that includes Korea (excluded from the Solheim Cup) while showing the depth of international talent in the women's game" (Palm Springs DESERT SUN, 7/22).
WIESY DOES IT: ESPNW's Voepel wrote while the Int'l Crown will "include some great players who were never going to be eligible for the Solheim Cup -- like South Korea's Inbee Park and Australia's Karrie Webb -- it won't have some of the most prominent players on tour right now, including Michelle Wie." If the U.S. team had been "set a month ago, rather than four months ago," Wie would be there and Paula Creamer "would have been the one left out." It is "not as if Creamer doesn't have her following, too," but Wie is a "big draw, especially when she's playing well." With her U.S. Women's Open victory "so close in the rearview mirror, it would have been beneficial" for the LPGA to "have her competing this week." Even without her "popularity as a factor, there's the simple fact that right now Wie is one of the LPGA stars playing at her best." If the LPGA had "finalized the teams a month ago, it would better reflect who's currently playing the best, and players would still have plenty of time to prepare." That is "something the LPGA should reconsider" for the next event in '16 (ESPNW.com, 7/22).