LPGA boosts tournaments on 2014 schedule

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2013, 5:40 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – If the LPGA were a publicly traded company, the stock would be up this morning.

The 2014 schedule released Friday shows the tour in strong growth mode in Mike Whan’s fourth season as commissioner.

Next year’s LPGA schedule will feature 33 events, 32 of them official tournaments, plus the new International Crown, an international eight-team event. The schedule’s tournament total is up from 28 official tournaments this year. That reflects significant growth, given the shaky foundation Whan inherited when he took over as commissioner in 2010, when title sponsors were abandoning the tour in bunches. There were just 23 LPGA events in 2011, down from 34 events in ’08.

Whan was hired with a player mandate to increase playing opportunities and repair relationships with alienated business partners.

Click here for full 2014 LPGA schedule

“We are excited where we are, but by no means are we finished,” Whan said.

While the LPGA has made significant strides building tournaments internationally the last few years, next year’s schedule features substantial growth on the home front, with 18 domestic events, four more than were featured this year, and five more than were on the schedule in 2011. Actually, if you count the two Canadian events and the Bahamas event on the ’14 schedule, it feels like 21 domestic events for LPGA pros in the United States, where the LPGA is based.

Three of the four events added domestically are full-field tournaments.

The tour's swoon came with a combination of hard economic times and heavy-handed business tactics by former commissioner Carolyn Bivens, who was forced out by the player membership. 

“All our players feel really good about our leadership and our staff and the progress we’ve made as a tour to get back to that level we were once at,” said Vicki Goetze-Ackerman, the LPGA president. “We know we still have work to do to improve things even more, but the schedule’s a great testament to our leadership. It says a lot about Mike and his vision and his work ethic. The ideas, how we’ve regained the relationship with the Tournament Owners Association, and with sponsors, has just been fantastic. It is a true testament to Mike as a person, not only as a leader.”

Jon Podany, the LPGA’s chief marketing officer, said conversations with sponsors begin differently now.

“We aren’t starting conversations with ‘What’s wrong with the LPGA?’ anymore,” Podany said.

Whan is nearing what he has described as an optimum schedule. He said the tour really has 32 to 34 weeks to sell that make sense.

Asked about his success growing the tour, Whan credited the players.

“Sports are at their best when the best athletes are at their best,” Whan said. “We have the best players at their best right now, and so it’s no surprise our schedule is growing.”

Some highlights of the new schedule:

• Players will be competing for $56.3 million in prize money, up from $48.8 million this year and $40 million in 2011.

• Of the five events added to the ’14 schedule, four are in the United States. The Meijer LPGA Classic at Blythefield Country Club in Grand Rapids, Mich., the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic at Lake Merced Golf Club outside San Francisco and the International Crown at Caves Valley in Maryland are new events. The Alabama Classic, formerly the Navistar Classic, is back on the schedule on the Robert Trent Jones’ Trail Capitol Hill course in Prattville, Ala., after a year’s hiatus. There also is a new Asian event planned in China in the fall, but the tour is waiting until February to unveil it.

• The LPGA season will open three weeks earlier than it did this year with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic as the new start, Jan. 23-26 at the Ocean Golf Club on Paradise Island.

• The Wegmans LPGA Championship is moving to a new date and venue. Traditionally played in early June, the championship is moving to Aug. 14-17. It’s also moving from its long-time home at Locust Hill Country Club to Monroe Golf Club in Pittsford, N.Y.

• The U.S. Women’s Open will be played at Pinehurst No. 2 June 19-22, the same venue as the U.S. Open, but a week later.

• The Portland Classic is on the schedule with an asterisk. While the LPGA expects the event to go off, there are sponsorship issues.

• The new schedule’s flow is improved, with just two gaps of more than one week in the schedule.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm