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Votaw LPGA Players Meet to Map out Future

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LPGA Tour Commissioner Ty Votaw considers this weekend one of the most important events of the year, even though the women won't be playing a tournament.
 
Players will gather in Phoenix for a mandatory meeting that starts Friday. The goal of the summit is roll out a five-year plan aimed at allowing the LPGA Tour to better compete in the sports entertainment business.
 
'This will not be an explanation of things in the past, rather mapping out and designing the future course and sharing that vision,' Votaw said. 'We're not looking for players' approval. We're making sure they know what they have to do.
 
'We must be more than just professional golf played by women.'
 
Votaw declined to discuss details of the plan, only that it will not include 'drastic, gimmicky, short-term things.'
 
The LPGA is coming off a banner season in which its television ratings increased, Annika Srenstam turned in one of the greatest years by becoming the first woman to break the $2 million mark and the first to shoot 59. She also set a record for scoring average.
 
Still, the offseason was marked by uncertainty.
 
The LPGA reduced its schedule to 31 tournaments to have consistently stronger fields on better golf courses with bigger purses. That eliminated the Florida Swing for the first time since the Tour began in 1950.
 
The 2002 season began with Srenstam beating Lorie Kane in a playoff in Hawaii. Also last week, Anheuser-Busch announced it no longer would sponsor the Michelob Championship at Kingsmill, but instead sponsor an LPGA event starting next year.
 
'That's a reflection of what we're trying to do,' Votaw said. 'We're looking at significant purses and markets that have supported golf.'
 
Earlier this week, The Office Depot Championship in Los Angeles raised its purse by $100,000, making it the 25th tournament with at least $1 million in prize money.
 
'We wanted to have an average purse of at least $1 million, and we've already got that,' Votaw said. 'We wanted every event to have at least a $1 million purse by '03, and with only six to go, we're well on our way to accomplishing that goal.'
 
Votaw said the three-day summit will focus on tournaments, the relationship with fans and players understanding their roles in making the LPGA Tour become more successful. He said the five-year plan would be unveiled Saturday, with the rest of time devoted to educating players on tournament business and corporate sponsorship.
 
'We'll be asking many of our players to be leaders,' he said. 'There are going to be disagreements. I only hope that what happens is that people know what the plan is, what environment they're competing in and what they will have to do.'
 
The LPGA Tour resumes after the summit with the Ping Banner Health at Moon Valley Country Club in Phoenix, where Sorenstam shot her 59.
 
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