Whan 'confident' in more LPGA events in 2013


NAPLES, Fla. – The LPGA’s fall Asian swing will expand with the tour preparing to announce a new event in China next year.

It’s part of what commissioner Mike Whan expects to be another bigger, better year for the tour.

Whan says the LPGA probably won’t release its 2013 schedule until the first week of January, but he likes what is in the works.

“I am pretty confident we will play more next year than we played this year,” Whan said.

The LPGA featured 34 official events in 2008, but through tough economic times and after a business backlash to policies of former LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens, the tour’s schedule shrunk to just 23 official events in 2011.

Whan righted what felt like a foundering ship last year with the announcement of four new tournaments, five new cash-checking opportunities with the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup adding a purse. The tour featured 27 official events this year.

Next year, the LPGA’s fall Asian swing will expand to five events with the tour preparing to announce a new tournament in Beijing. It’s a separate event from the Imperial Springs tournament that was canceled in Guangzhou last year.

The LPGA is exploring the possibility of adding a new event in Dallas, and it’s also preparing to announce a new Olympic-style team event, though it’s unclear if that would make its debut in 2013 or '14.

“I would say we have at least two and maybe three tournaments to potentially add to what we already know about our schedule,” Whan said. “I’m not going to announce our schedule until it’s as good as I can make it. My first two years, we added tournaments pretty late, we added events in December. I think the glide path we’ve had the last couple years will continue.”

Whan said Shanshan Feng helped escalate talks for the new China event. Feng won the Wegmans LPGA Championship in June to become the first player from China to win a major.

Last week, Wegmans announced it was returning to sponsor the LPGA Championship next year. The contract had expired after this year’s event. Whan said it’s a one-year extension with talks ongoing.

“There are still a few things that have to be worked out,” Whan said over whether Wegmans would remain a long-term title sponsor of the LPGA’s flagship event. “Wegmans is looking for some government and local support that they want to make sure they get secured before we talk about anything longer term.”

The Navistar Classic appears to be the only event the LPGA could lose from this year’s schedule, with Navistar announcing this week that it would not return as title sponsor of the event in Prattville, Ala. Whan, however, believes that event will still end up on the 2013 schedule.

“I believe we are coming back there,” Whan said. “We have some work to do, but I believe we will find a way to stay in Prattville.”