Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Corning Classic in Trouble

There was word going around before my vacation about the potential ruin of the LPGA's Corning Classic - the longest standing regular tour stop (30 years). There were talks of this last year and the volume has increased this year as one of the weaker fields of the entire season gathered in New York.

A city of barely 10,000 residents along the state's Southern Tier this week is commemorating its 30th year as host of the LPGA's longest-running tournament. Next year will be the 31st, and likely the last, for the Corning Classic.
Small markets are something that Ty Votaw tried to eliminate in his final years as LPGA Commish. It was what stimulated the expansion outside of the United States and into places like Miami and Orlando. But, it comes at the expense of long-standing, well supported events that cannot raise sponsorship or capital to attract solid fields.

Fun doesn't seem to rank high on golf's list of priorities these days. It's business. Big business. On the men's side, Tiger Woods is a corporation unto himself. The LPGA has no one of that stature, but Ochoa and Sorenstam, who plans to retire at season's end, are marketable.

"The players today are in it for the money for the most part," Turner said. "There's some that are in it for the love of the game, but they're going to go where the money is. I hate seeing that happen because I know why this event is probably not going to continue."

Turner, merely speculating but carrying the wisdom of a 25-year tour veteran, believes the LPGA soon will elevate its minimum purse to $2 million. That's too deep for the pockets of this community, even with the backing of its loyal corporate sponsor, Corning Glass Works.

I think the writing is a little biased considering that it is coming from Corning, NY. But, still, there is a point to be made in all of this. The LPGA Tour is at a crossroads of embracing its past but looking toward a brighter future. For example, chasing a television deal in which the Tour actually makes money is just not possible when broadcasting from Corning, NY. The smallest market that the PGA Tour goes to - that I can think of off hand - is Reno for the Reno-Tahoe Open. It is a tough balancing act.

No comments: