Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The LPGA Tour Age Gap

With all of the chatter surrounding the Corning Classic this past weekend, I noticed that a lot of the quoting of players was done with players that are in the late 30s and their 40s in age. Meg Mallon, Rosie Jones, and others were among those leading the charge to "preserve" Corning - still on contract for at least one more edition. Here's an example:

There is no reason for the Corning Classic to ever go away, said 21-year LPGA veteran Meg Mallon, who has competed at Corning for at least 15 years.

"It's fun to play in front of these fans," said Mallon, an 18-time tour winner. "The tournament is very healthy. The people of Corning want to have us here, and we want to be here. It sounds like a good combination."
What do the younger players think, though? Do they love smaller events with impassioned fans? Do they care where they play so long as the money is there? That was the dismissal made in the papers in the Corning area, but is that accurate? Or, could the journos there just not get a quote?

1 comment:

The Constructivist said...

Turner was the one who started that generation gap talk in her pre-tournament interview. I think she missed the fact that the Corning comes in the tail end of an 11-week-straight stretch on the LPGA and is a natural place to rest before the Ginn Tribute.

Those who didn't rest may just have wanted to compete at home for a bit. Eun-Hee Ji chose to play in the KLPGA match-play event this past week. Suzann Pettersen ran away with the concurrent LET event, so clearly she thought tuning up there would better suit her heading into the LPGA's major season. I think for power players like her, it's probably a good decision to skip the Corning, so to the extent there are more power players among the younger players on tour, you will probably see more of them skip it.

But if the community is so behind the event, it shouldn't matter who skips it. The people who attend get to see many up-and-coming young players--ROY race leader Na Yeon Choi was there, as were too many other rookies to count, 13 Super Sophs, and 11 Junior Mints--plus the usual mix of vets who think the course suits their games.

I doubt money is as big a factor for the players as it is for the LPGA brass. The Safeway International, after all, had a fantastic field and its purse is the same size as Corning's. The 2 Hawaii kick-off events had very strong fields with smaller purses, but they benefitted from a favorable place in the schedule.

Plus, a lot of these new-money events like the Sybase and the Ginn will be hard-pressed to keep upping their purses with their sponsors' (and their industries') business problems lately, so it's not like Corning will have to work all that hard to keep pace with them. And their industry is doing pretty well lately, what with flat screens and all that. So even if the top players do tend to follow the money to some extent, I don't see big problems for the Corning extending the longest site/sponsor relationship on the LPGA--certainly they have better odds than the Fields and the Corona Championship! And probably better than the Phoenix event finding a new sponsor....