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LPGA may have short stay at Lake Merced

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Is the LPGA’s return to the Bay Area a one-off at Lake Merced Golf Club in San Francisco?

The inaugural Swinging Skirts Classic, the first LPGA event in the Bay Area since 2010, has its roots in Taiwan, where the Swinging Skirts Golf Team is a private non-profit organization.

San Francisco Chronicle golf writer Ron Kroichick reports that though Swinging Skirts has agreed to a three-year deal as title sponsor of the new LPGA event, the contract with Lake Merced is for just one year. Here’s an excerpt from his story in Thursday’s edition of the Chronicle:

Two sources suggested Swinging Skirts really wants to hold this event in Taiwan long term. The group, a non-profit intent on growing the game, sponsored a tournament on the Taiwan LPGA tour the past three years – but craved the chance to become affiliated with the U.S.-based LPGA tour, the highest level of women’s golf.

Mission accomplished. But it’s also natural to envision Swinging Skirts officials lobbying to move the tournament to Taiwan in two or three years. The group’s contract as title sponsor runs three years; Lake Merced’s deal as host course covers only one year, with options for 2015 and ’16.

And make no mistake, LPGA commissioner Mike Whan’s loyalty rests with his sponsors. Whan seemed genuinely happy about bringing a tournament back to the Bay Area, but he also didn’t view it as a high priority.

“If I’m being totally honest, I don’t target an area,” Whan said. “I pursue business partners and then find out where the event makes the most sense to them. We’re not circling cities – we’re circling customers. Then we figure out where to play it.”

That’s logical, but it also doesn’t bode well for the future of this tournament in the Bay Area. Swinging Skirts supplies the money, so Swinging Skirts will have a big say in where its event is held.