NAPLES, Fla. – LPGA commissioner Mike Whan is flying to Spain this weekend in a bid to close the deal on a merger with the Ladies European Tour.
The LPGA’s and LET’s board of directors have each agreed to pursue a partnership, but the final say rests with LET players.
“The LET, no different from the LPGA, is run by its players,” Whan said. So, the players will get the final vote on that.”
Whan will meet with LET players on Tuesday.
“It's literally a 50-50 joint venture that we're proposing,” Whan said. “Six members of a board from our side and six members of a board from their side. And all proceeds stay in Europe.”
Whan is proposing a pathway to help players make their way from the LET to the LPGA, but he said that access, in the beginning, would be limited to the LPGA’s Q-Series, the final stage of the tour’s Q-School. That pathway could evolve into direct access, similar to the Symetra Tour, where the LET’s top money winners earn LPGA tour cards.
“I think the responsibility is on us first – meaning us, the suits – to create a schedule that's significant enough, with a significant amount of playing opportunities, and you have to beat enough players to show yourself worthy of direct access,” Whan said. “But I think in the short-term, if you can make it to Q-Series, you've probably got a 50-50 shot. I don't know if those are the exact odds of Q-Series, but it's probably close.”
Whan said he envisions the LET offering the best of both worlds for players over there.
“We need to provide the season-long qualifier,” Whan said. “I also think, different from Symetra, I view the LET as a tour that people can probably go and play for life, if we build that tour the way we can build it.”
What’s really in this for the LPGA?
Whan said: “The way I said it to my board is,'If you read the mission of the LPGA, it's to provide women the opportunity to pursue their dreams in the game of golf, period That's the whole statement. As I said to our board, I don't see a boundary or a fence around that statement. It doesn't say in America, doesn't say in North America, doesn't say in countries where you think the opportunity is greatest.
“So, I said I think we should do this because we can. We really can. And I think it's our responsibility. Our founders would have done it if they would have had this ability. So, why shouldn't we?”
Whan said he sees an LET pathway to the LPGA helping to grow golf globally.
“By providing a pathway, we engage country federations throughout Europe who have money to spend on women's sport,” Whan said. “But they need to make sure that path can lead to Olympic athletes and people that can live on the top of the Rolex world rankings. And they know that path to the LPGA is required to do that.”