Bivens Delivers State of LPGA


2006 ADT ChampionshipWEST PALM BEACH, Fla. ' With as much anticipation as there has been for an LPGA news conference in the past five years, commissioner Carolyn Bivens stepped to the podium and delivered a State of the Tour Address with poise, passion and precision.
It was the first time Bivens had made herself available to the media since the English proficiency gaffe in August and the packed house of journalists were eager to follow up with questions regarding that debacle, as well as the 2009 schedule, which had been speculated about ad nauseam over the past month.
She entered the room on crutches from a recent foot surgery and the throngs were waiting to see if the LPGA was going to limp into 2009 just as its leader had limped into the interview room. Nearly 40 minutes later, it was clear that the tour would feel the effects of the economic downturn in the U.S. and that, although several events would not return to the 2009 docket, the LPGA seemingly has weathered the storm at least for now.
Its no secret that the road ahead, particularly 2009, is going to test our mettle, Bivens said. The state of the global economy and the economic crisis were all facing has resulted in a slightly different tournament landscape. Its not something that comes as a surprise.
Here is a smattering of events that came out of the chat with the commish:
  • The schedule has 31 events, down from 34 in 2008. Those gone include the Fields Open in Hawaii, the Ginn Tribute, the SemGroup Championship in Oklahoma and the ADT Championship here this week at Trump International. On the flip side, the Honda LPGA Thailand event, which debuted in 2007, returned after a hiatus in 2008.
    Of the 31 events, 13 are held outside the mainland of the U.S. There are three in Mexico, two in Hawaii and one in Canada, Thailand, Singapore, France, England, China, South Korea and Japan.
    Purses will be around $55 million, about $5.25 million down from this year.
  • There are five TBDs on the schedule. Some were a surprise, some were not. The Safeway International in Phoenix is now the LPGA International with the loss of Safeway as title sponsor. The tournament will remain in Phoenix and Bivens is hopeful that it will remain at Superstition Mountain but that is not finalized.
    Ginn Resorts will have one event, not two as it has the past two years. It was announced earlier this year that the Ginn Tribute wouldnt return to South Carolina but that the company would focus its efforts on making the Ginn Open in Orlando a better event. However, the purse, one of the tops on tour over the past three years, is listed as TBD.
    The Samsung World Championship will move from October to September but the course and city have not yet been determined. The China LPGA in late October does not have a venue and the Stanford Financial Tour Championship will be played in Houston but the course is not known.
  • The loss of the ADT Championship here at The Donalds place has created much conversation. The LPGA contends that the event never was going to be on the schedule for 2009 and that it always had planned to host the event at the beginning of the 2010 schedule. Only, when the LPGA made the move it ultimately resulted in not having ADT join as title sponsor. Reasons seem to vary as to why.
    Im sad that it wasnt able to work out, said unofficial tournament host Donald Trump. Thats the way it goes sometimes.
    The tour says it simply couldnt come to terms with an agreement, but ADT officials told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that the LPGA upped its renewal pricing which caused the security systems company to re-evaluate the value of the overall event. ADT was also quick to point out that the decision was not based on cost cutting measures, but that it was increasing its marketing budget over the next couple years.
    Besides, some players are not all too comfortable with the idea of opening a season for a $1 million first-place prize. Sure, the money is nice, but most rarely are in top form early in the season.
    To come out of an offseason to play for $1 million would be interesting, Paula Creamer said. The same effect could be different.
  • There is potential for a player not to be eligible for an event for seven weeks in the middle of the summer. If someone doesnt qualify for the U.S. Womens Open or the British Open she wouldnt be able to play in an LPGA event from July 5 (the last day of the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic) until Aug. 28 (the first day of the Safeway Classic in Oregon). Thats a span of 54 days. In between are the U.S. Womens Open, Evian Masters, Womens British Open and Solheim Cup, all events that are not guaranteed to all players with full exempt status.
    Sure were uncomfortable with that, Bivens said. We want to fill holes.
  • Then there is that pesky English proficiency deal, which generated worldwide interest back in August when the LPGA said it would require all players to speak conversational English or risk losing tour status until the test is passed. After receiving heat from numerous organizations and risking the loss of several key tour sponsorships, the tour soon backed off its stance. But it didnt ban the idea altogether and still plans to institute some sort of program that will urge players to speak English.
    Whats come out of all of that is offers in some cases for some pro bono work from some pretty impressive groups and organizations, Bivens said. And were taking them up on it.
    So were actually going to make this more extensive than wed ever intended to in the very first place. And our goal is to come out of this a year to 18 months from now and have a model program.
    And with that, what many believed would be a contentious Q&A session, turned into just another model news conference.
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