At a roast attended by nearly 300 colleagues, family and friends, the outgoing LPGA commissioner was surprised with the presentation of the Patty Berg Award in recognition of his many contributions to women's golf.
The award, instituted in 1979 by the LPGA Board of Directors, is named in honor of LPGA Founder Patty Berg. Votaw, who officially ended his seven-year commissionership last week at The Solheim Cup, has dedicated nearly a third of his life to advancing the LPGA.
'The entire evening was an unforgettable experience,' said Votaw. 'But to be surprised with the Patty Berg Award at the end of the night was icing on the cake, the honor of a lifetime. One of the most rewarding aspects of my time as commissioner has been getting to know and appreciate the founders and all they have done for the LPGA, golf and women's sports. To receive an award from one of those founders, the great Patty Berg, leaves me humbled and deeply grateful. I couldn't have asked for a better farewell.'
At the roast, LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame member Judy Rankin, who received the Patty Berg Award in 1999, spoke on behalf of Berg. Votaw then went into the audience to receive the award from Berg, 87.
Other Patty Berg Award recipients in attendance Saturday night included David Foster (1986); Judy Dickinson (1992); Charles S. Mechem Jr. (1994); Judy Bell (1997); Louise Suggs (2000); and Pat Bradley (2001).
From the time he joined the LPGA in 1991 as general counsel, Votaw has played a key role in strengthening the LPGA's position as the leading women's sports organization in the world and has guided the organization through one of the most successful periods in its history. Through his leadership, he has provided the LPGA with a strong foundation for future growth and prosperity, significantly raised the LPGA's profile and image and created a healthier more robust fan-base for the organization.
Votaw's strategic vision and Fans First plan have made the following achievements for the LPGA possible:
* Highest total purse ($45.1 million) and highest average purse ($1.4 million);
* Highest number of $1 million (30) and $2 million events (4);
* Every domestic full-field event at least $1 million;
* Highest contribution to player retirement plan in LPGA history;
* Higher attendance and viewership;
* Through establishment of the one-in-four policy for players, field strength averaged 7 of the top 10, 15 of the top 20 and 23 of the top 30 players the past two years;
* Finalized five-year partnerships with two major TV partners (The Golf Channel and ESPN);
* Finalized the highest TV rights fee in LPGA history with SBS and solidified partnership for the next five years;
* Sports Business Journal Sponsorship Report Card in 1999 and 2003 - LPGA ranked No. 1 sports property in several categories (and significant improvements in categories from 1999-2003);
* Establishment of the first-ever World Congress of Women's Golf and forthcoming world rankings for women's golf;
* Staging of the first-ever LPGA Player Summit in 2002 and the establishment of the LPGA's Fans First business plan/Five Points of Celebrity;
* Unveiling of The LPGA Playoffs at The ADT, the first-ever playoff system in golf.
Votaw announced his resignation in January and has been instrumental in the transition of leadership to Carolyn Bivens, who officially takes the role of commissioner today. Votaw was named LPGA commissioner in March 1999, and his seven-year tenure was the second-longest in LPGA history.
The Patty Berg Award is given to an individual who, like Berg, exemplifies diplomacy, sportsmanship, goodwill and contributions to the game of golf. Past recipients of the award are: Marilynn Smith (1979); Betsy Rawls (1980); Ray Volpe (1984); Dinah Shore (1985); David Foster (1986); Kathy Whitworth (1987); John D. Laupheimer (1988); Patty Berg (1990); Karsten Solheim (1991); Judy Dickinson (1992); Kerry Graham (1993); Charles S. Mechem Jr. (1994); Suzanne Jackson (1996); Judy Bell (1997); Judy Rankin (1999); Louise Suggs (2000); Pat Bradley (2001); Patty Sheehan (2002); and Annika Sorenstam (2003).