Give LPGA commissioner Mike Whan his due.
The RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup will return next year with a $1.5 million purse that will actually go into the pockets of tour players. And yet when the tournament is played March 15-18 at Marriott’s Wildfire Golf Club in Phoenix, it will continue to serve a significant charity function with $500,000 going to the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf Program.
While the Founders Cup won’t be a new event on the 2012 schedule, it feels like Whan has added a new tournament because it’s an added purse pros didn’t pocket last year. In 2011, players played for larger causes, donating all their winnings to Girls Golf and their own designated charities.
When Whan first proposed the Founders Cup as a way to honor the tour’s pioneering founders, he did so at significant risk. He was basically asking his membership to step up and play for free for the betterment of others at a time when LPGA pros were hurting with fewer opportunities in a shrinking tour schedule. There was backlash among some top players. It seemed like it might be the right idea at the wrong time, but Whan’s faith paid off with an inaugural event so successful RR Donnelley is stepping up next year to help fund a real purse, plus the Girls Golf Program.
“RR Donnelley, the LPGA and its players truly confirmed ‘Why It’s Different Out Here' in 2011, making golf history by not only remembering the women that made the LPGA a reality, but also by 'paying-it-forward' and playing entirely for charity and the expansion of the Girls Golf Program,” Whan said in a statement. “Next season, with RR Donnelley’s vision, we will prove that the Founders Cup sequel is even better than the original.”
The purpose of the Founders Cup has been expanded to honor not just the 13 founders of the tour, but also pioneers who came after them. Next year, Peggy Kirk Bell, Betsy Rawls, Barb Romack and Mickey Wright will be pioneers honored along with the founders. The tournament has also been expanded to 72 holes with players no longer playing for designated personal charities.
Proceeds from this year's event helped fund 40 new Girls Golf sites around the country, according to the LPGA.
“The future of the game will continue to be the real winner at this event, as the proceeds continue to expand opportunities for young women to get started in this great game,” Whan said.