Friday, May 2, 2008

Some LPGA/China Backlash

We posted earlier in the week about the new LPGA event to take place in China - called the Grand Air China LPGA - later on this season as the gap event between the current Asia swing and the third Hawaii event at Kapalua. In the post, I mentioned that this is a slam dunk for the LPGA Tour because golf is growing in China, huge in Asia, and is an untapped market for the Tour at present. Also, I noted that it is easier to find sponsorship opportunities in China as opposed to forcing the issue in the United States where many events are struggling for sponsor dollars.

Well, not everyone is happy about that approach, including Larry Bohannan of the Desert Sun.

The Fields Open in Hawaii; the LPGA stop in Phoenix, which just lost its sponsorship with Safeway; and both tournaments sponsored by Ginn Resorts have uncertain futures at best. Shaky sponsorship and a weak economy could doom some if not all of those tournaments and more in the coming year or two.

Throw in the idea that many around the tour are complaining a bit louder than in the past about what seems to be an increasing number of limited-field and foreign events on the schedule.

That second paragraph is more news than the first, but the limited-field complaint is now one common to the PGA Tour rank and file. Still, lots of LPGA Tour voices appear upset that there is not enough support being lent from Daytona Beach to events in the United States that might sink.

[S]ome associated with the tour are getting angry that the LPGA doesn't seem to do enough to protect or help full-field domestic tournaments, while it fosters the idea of the limited-field events outside of the country. And those events in Japan, Korea and China either won't be seen on television in this country or, at best, will be seen on a tape-delayed basis.

The TV aspect is particularly troubling to me. Last year, I tried to find out the TV arrangement for the Asia swing with the LPGA Tour staff. As it turns out, they were trying to work out a deal to broadcast video on their LPGA Tour Asia site. That didn't pan out, though, and left fans in the dark here in the States.

At this time, when Lorena Ochoa is taking the golf world by storm, it would seem that the Tour would want to be on TV here as often as is possible. Perhaps that will begin this year, but I don't know that the LPGA Tour would want to pony up cash to either (a) buy rights from Asian broadcasters for feeding to the US and have Golf Channel do voiceover commentary in English, or (b) pay to bring their own production company to trek around Asia to cover these tournaments for either or broadcast on the Golf Channel.

I can appreciate and understand the moves of the LPGA Tour to go out into areas where sponsorship money is available and the Tour is accepted by fans, but it must not forget its roots.

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