A Whole New Game For LPGA

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RACHO MIRAGE, Calif. - At the end of the 2001 season, LPGA Tour Commissioner Ty Votaw looked as if the weight of the world was upon him. Much criticism was cast on Votaw after the announcement that the LPGA was reducing its schedule by as many as seven events in the 2002 season and there would not be a Florida swing.
 
Now, just four months later, and two weeks after Votaw and his fellow LPGA staff unveiled a new strategic business plan, the revitalized commissioner exuded an unshakable confidence in the tour and its members as he addressed the media at a State of the Tour press conference held at the Kraft Nabisco Championship Wednesday.
 
Votaw jokingly greeted the press before launching into a fairly detailed look at exactly how he and others will implement the Five Points of Celebrity which he now points to as the cornerstone of the LPGA developing compelling sports entertainers. These five points, identified by a professional development group hired by the tour, are: Performance, approachability, appearance, joy and passion, and relevance.
 
We are changing the way we conduct our business, Votaw stated. This is quite literally a new LPGA. Fifty-two years is great, but we are going to be more bullish in the next 50 years, and more specifically, the next three to five years.
 
I believe we are in a unique position in the sports entertainment marketplace, and professional golf allows us to manage our business realities using the available aspect within our organization, not looking outside the organization, but seeing what we have within our organization.'
 
The LPGA is no longer content with being the gender alternative for the PGA Tour. They are branching out and asking much of their membership in the way of personal sacrifice.
 
In the mandatory player meeting that took place in Phoenix two weeks ago, Votaw indicated that each player would need to address which of the five points they felt they needed to work on in order to personally contribute to the overall goal.
 
One of the most prominent faces of the tour, Annika Sorenstam, has her work cut out for her. Although she far exceeds the first point ' performance ' she said that she is working on all five.
 
You know, like I said, one part of it is the performances; Im pretty happy with my performance,' she said. 'One of the things they mentioned was passion and joy; I mean, I love this game, you cant really love it any more.
 
Sorenstam has been criticized throughout her career for both her appearance and unwillingness to talk about her life away from the golf course. They talk about approachability, appearance, Sorenstam continued. I think the fifth one was what you do outside the tour, and those are probably the things Im working on. Being more approachable, sign a few more autographs, those are things I work on.
 
In all, the plan Votaw rolled out has been met with little resistance. Nancy Lopez, one of the most beloved and respected faces in womens golf, says she feels more positive about the organization and its future' than she has in many years.
 
I am very personally energized by this new strategy because of the positive responses we received from our entire constituency, she said.
 
Everyone will be keeping an eye on the changes in store for the LPGA Tour. If it even comes close to the visible change in Votaw, it should be something grand to watch.