Even though the total number of events has decreased, compared to the 2001 schedule, LPGA Tour Commissioner Ty Votaw insists that it is a positive move for the non-profit organization.
Click Here for the Full 2002 LPGA Tour Schedule
2002 is going to be a very good year for the LPGA Tour, Votaw said. The process of streamlining, refining and realigning the schedule, addressing such issues as the number of events, and geographic flow and the quality of the events, is an ongoing process. The number of events on next years schedule is due, in part, to the economy, natural attrition and our strategic planning.
One of the most glaring losses on next years schedule is the absence of a Florida Swing. The 2002 season will mark the first time in the LPGAs 51-year history without an event in Florida at the beginning of the season.
The decision to take the month of January off, as I said, was part strategic and part the realities that we face at each of the individual tournaments, Votaw said. With respect to whether or not we will go back to any kind of January Florida Swing, were going to look at that as an ongoing process of our schedule.
The lack of January events left the LPGA looking at a late start - mid-February - to the 2002 season. Then when the season-opening Hawaiian event failed to materialize, the off-season was extended to February 28th.
That situation is one where I can directly point to the September 11th situation, Votaw explained. The tourism business in Hawaii has been hit disproportionately harder than perhaps other places.
Not everyone will benefit from the increased competition. For those who struggle through 20, even 30 events a year and barely hold onto their cards, this is a decision that will further hurt their chances to continue playing professional golf at the highest level.
I think this is a performance based Tour, Votaw said. I think all of our players know that and realize that. While they would like to have perhaps more opportunities rather than fewer, we also have to deal with that in the context of fulfilling what our brand promise is, which is, again, to showcase the very best of womens professional golf week-in and week-out.
Events on next years schedule boast an average purse of $1.19 million, which represents a 10% increase over last year. The First Union Betsy King Classic had the largest single increase of $400,000, which raised their 2002 purse to $1.2 million in prize money next year.
The fact that the LPGA Tour has been able to increase purses - and overall prize money - while decreasing the number of events speaks volumes in itself, and Commissioner Votaw is especially proud of this fact.
Our players are competing for more money each week than ever before, and this should increase even more because we expect several additional tournaments to announce purse increases for 2002. We are happy with our schedule as released.
Events on the 2002 schedule have title sponsors comprised of five grocery store chains, three fast-food companies and two food companies which Votaw feels properly aligns the LPGA in the current economy.
The fact that we are sponsored by food companies which traditionally do better in times of recession than perhaps other industries, does provide me some level of comfort as to the short-term, having to eat short-term situations that were faced with.
'The commitment of our tournament sponsors to the growth of the LPGA Tour continues to be phenomenal. Our focus in the coming years will be on quality, not only in the competitive environment, but also in the area of economic opportunity for our players.