Tuesday, March 25, 2008

LPGA Schedule Health in Question?

I found a new blog the other day, written by a guy who goes by the moniker of Hound Dog, about the LPGA Tour. I've enjoyed reading it so far and there is a link on the sidebar for it. Anyway, Hound Dog had this post the other day listing his endangered LPGA Tour events. Here's his list:

1. Fields Open
2. Corona Championship
3. Safeway International
4. Longs Drugs
5. SBS Open
6. MasterCard Classic
7. Jamie Farr
8. Samsung

It's a pretty grim assessment from the perspective of a LPGA Tour fan. Realistically, let's go over the list.

1. Fields Open - rumors of the tournament needing a new home and a new sponsor leave this tournament as a primo pick to be off of the schedule for next year. It is a 72 hole event and generally draws a good field, but it is tough to generate a big crowd in Hawaii unless a native daughter (Michelle Wie) is playing and is a contender. The only reason that the PGA Tour has any level of success there is because of its better ability to pick off high profile sponsors.

2. Corona Championship - you can probably kiss this one goodbye because the Lorena Ochoa Invitational is likely to replace it in the long term. Corona is behind the Ochoa event. Even in the face of the Once Every Four rule, it is tough to peg a memory of significance on this event.

3. Safeway International - I honestly would not place it this high. In fact, I wouldn't call it that endangered. This event has managed to survive through many sponsorship changes. It has a lot of local support. This will endure.

4. Longs Drugs - another event fitting the profile of the Safeway, but on a much smaller scale. It is a long time LPGA Tour event. The purse is pretty low, though. Still, how can there not be an interested sponsor for a solid LPGA field late in the season? Especially compared to the Fall Stinker Series on the PGA Tour?

5. SBS Open - this one could probably move further up the list. It has the smallest full field purse on Tour. Then again, it may have just received CPR in the form of Annika Sorenstam winning the event. It is likely to live at least another few years on that alone.

6. Mastercard Classic - a lot of complaints about hills, walking times, and smog make this event one that is more likely to move than to die. The LPGA Tour wants a presence in Mexico beyond the Ochoa event. To have 3 events in Mexico is probably a bit much, but 2 seems reasonable. After all, the PGA Tour is expanding to Mexico and Puerto Rico.

7. Jamie Farr - see Longs Drugs, basically.

8. Samsung - this event, owned by IMG, used to be meaningful until the ADT Championship became the most innovative tournament in golf today. A 20 player field for a million bucks on a mediocre gimmick course? Try 30 players playing for a million dollar first prize in a gimmick format that almost everyone loves. It's much better.

Realistically, though, I could see half of these tournaments going away. That means that it is more likely that only 2 will drop off the schedule next year. Still, I don't think that is Hound Dog's point. The point is that the health of many LPGA Tour events can be called into some question from season to season. This is almost 25% of the schedule. You are not likely to call 25% of the PGA Tour schedule into question from season to season. But, to prove the point that the LPGA Tour is not unique to this problem, consider the following events are on trouble on the PGA Tour:

1. PODS Championship - no sponsor, no help from Tour
2. Wyndham Championship - lousy participation
3. Zurich Classic of New Orleans - always tenuous on sponsorship
4. AT&T Classic (Duluth, GA) - losing a sponsor
5. any alternate field event that you want to pick, but only one
6. Ginn sur mer Classic - probably fits because it is based on real estate

So, this goes to show that no tour is immune from the struggles to find sponsorship and keep events alive.

5 comments:

Hound Dog said...

Thanks for the mention, Ryan. Funny, another golfy blogger (The Constructivist at Mostly Harmless) had just brought your site to my attention this morning and just hours later - here you go, a post featuring Yours Truly!

I'm not suggesting that ALL of these events are in trouble. I was trying to identify the ones which were likely to be missing in 2009, using the examples of recent seasons. I believe the Farr is vulnerable because the Tour appears to be loading up the spring and summer months with higher dollar events and the Farr stands out with the lowest purse of that group.

Re Longs and Farr: Ask ShopRite how much 15 years of supporting the LPGA helped them when a higher-paying sponsor came along wanting their date on the schedule.

Ryan Ballengee said...

Consider "grim assessment" in the original post as changed for the record! I can't disagree with you on the Farr. It seems like the big money events are congregating to summer - primetime. I also cannot disagree with your analysis of the ShopRite. IMHO, they got a raw deal in some ways. It is all in the interest of growing the Tour, so it isn't all negative on a macro level. The problem is that tournaments dying does have a negative impact on local communities, as you well know.

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