Sunday, June 8, 2008

LPGA Championship Undergoing Major Changes

Get the joke in the title? Well, ha ha to that, but Commissioner Carolyn Bivens is proposing serious changes to the LPGA Championship beginning in 2010 - after the tournament's final year at Bulle Rock. Ron Sirak reports:

[T]he tour will become the owner of the tournament, which will become simply, succinctly and accurately known as "The LPGA Championship" in 2010 after next year's swan song at Bulle Rock GC.

The LPGA Championship will join the ADT Championship as the only events owned by the tour. And it joins the U.S. Women's Open as a major championship not having a title sponsor, helping to restore an identity as the "players championship" undermined when McDonald's pressured the tour to change its "LPGA member-only" rule to allow Michelle Wie into the 2005 tournament as an amateur.

In effect, is a huge move and a solid one. I think that there is something lost in a major championship that has a corporate name on it. Take off McDonald's and restore the luster of the major - one certainly not lost on the players, but maybe on the fans.

Here's the best part of the changes:

The LPGA Championship will also be moved to August (making it the last of the four majors), will have a purse of $3 million (second only to the $3.1 million paid out this year by the U.S. Women's Open), be played at a yet-to-be-determined course in the northeastern United States and be on network television. Currently, it is on the Golf Channel which, because of its 15-year deal with the PGA Tour, has limited flexibility in its broadcast window for the LPGA.

The move to TGC was because of moves by CBS to relegate the tournament to lousy broadcast times and second-rate coverage. Has the LPGA Tour grown in the television marketplace to guarantee that it will not get that treatment again? Perhaps this change is just a small part in the television package that the Tour will announced and SBJ's Jon Show has been reporting.

Back to the event itself, though. If Bulle Rock is out of the equation, then what is in?

Among the northeast venues whispered to be on the radar screen for the LPGA Championship is The Carnegie Abbey Club, an exclusive development on Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island designed by Donald Steel. A plan to rotate the tournament among three courses, including frequent USGA host site Baltusrol GC, was dismissed as unwieldy and inefficient. DuPont, which hosted the championship from 1994-2004 and has undergone an impressive course renovation, may also be back in the mix.
I think it would be a terrible mistake for the LPGA Tour to get in bed with a real estate development and golf course community. Look at what may be happening with the Ginn Company. I have gone on record saying that the LPGA Championship should be rotated to courses that conjure up images of golf history. Baltusrol would be a winner for that case. Bringing DuPont back would even work from a LPGA historical perspective.


Anonymous said...

What are you referring to regarding the Ginn Company?

Philip said...

Well, there's the , the Ginn Tribute Hosted by ANNIKA.

If they do the Rhode Island tournament, that'll be three of tournaments with developers as sponsors. Then again, like the USGA, the LPGA is going for long-term financial security, which means relationships where there's money.