The LPGA again is shopping a proposed new event that would be aligned with future NFL Pro Bowls beginning in 2018.
“The main idea is that we combine an LPGA event that would pair LPGA players with retired NFL players around Pro Bowls,” said Jon Podany, chief commercial officer for the LPGA. “It is one of our highest priorities. After recent meetings, we are sending follow-up proposals to potential sponsors this week. We’ve got a compelling package that is already finding interest, and I feel confident that we will find the right partner.”
The NFL moved the 2017 Pro Bowl to Orlando’s Camping World Stadium. But the league has not announced its specific plans for the 2018 Pro Bowl and the LPGA does not have a formal agreement with the NFL in developing the golf event.
“There is no contractual relationship with them at this time,” Podany said. “This idea is not dependent on Orlando as long as the Pro Bowl is in a warm weather climate.”
The NFL said it is still considering its Pro Bowl options.
“We would be pleased to talk further with the LPGA about their concept,” said Natalie Ravitz, senior vice president of communications for the NFL. “At this stage, we are focused on finalizing our plans for the 2018 Pro Bowl. Last year was our first time in Orlando. We had a great experience with the city and we have an option to return. And we’re in the process of evaluating that and talking with our partners.”
The LPGA tried to sell a similar idea for the 2017 Pro Bowl, but Podany said there was not enough time to make a deal then. Now the LPGA is again hitting the market in advance of the 2018 Pro Bowl, seeking a three-year title deal to run from 2018-20 for approximately $4 million a year. “We need sponsors to make it work,” Podany said.
The LPGA hopes to finalize plans and sign a title sponsor this summer, with Labor Day as an unofficial deadline to proceed with the event. The LPGA is shopping the tournament itself, with no other agencies involved. “We have good conversations going on,” Podany said.
Podany said he has talked with Golf Channel for television coverage each day of the proposed tournament.
Details of the proposed new event sent to potential sponsors include a 72-hole tournament with a field of 108 LPGA players that would be cut to a field of 40 after 36 holes. Then, the 40 LPGA players would be paired for weekend play with former NFL players and coaches in a team event with proceeds to go to charity. LPGA players would compete separately for a $1.5 million purse with the new event to be part of the official LPGA calendar.
The proposed 2018 tournament would be played from Thursday, Jan. 25, through Sunday, Jan. 28. Plans also include a Pro-Am tournament for Wednesday, Jan. 24.
“It would be at a good time of the year and the public would be curious about it,” said Bill Colvin, a former IMG executive and founder of the Colvin Sports Network, a golf consulting company. “As a sponsor, I’d get the golf and interaction of LPGA players and I’d get the names from the football world.”
The LPGA’s effort to add the event comes as it also works with the PGA Tour to create an event that would include both men and women pros possibly at the PGA Tour’s Tournament of Champions event held the first weekend in January in Hawaii. The effort is part of a strategic alliance between both tours.
There is some familiarity between the NFL and the LPGA given that NFL Chief Marketing Officer Dawn Hudson was an LPGA board member from 2001-10 and board chair from 2008-10.
Should the LPGA succeed in finalizing the new event, it would likely have to shift its tournament schedule. Plans call for the LPGA to move its season-opening Pure Silk-Bahamas Classic up one week from its current late January date that this year was held the same weekend as the Pro Bowl.
“I give this as good a chance as anything given how compelling this is,” Podany said.