LPGA commissioner Mike Whan delivered a dose of hope to fans wondering how much the coronavirus pandemic might be threatening the tour’s long-term future.
The Evian Championship, one of the LPGA’s five majors, was canceled Tuesday, becoming the 12th event the tour scrubbed this year.
Evian officials cited travel challenges to France were factors, with 120 players coming from 30 countries, all amid different stages of the pandemic.
While the PGA Tour makes its restart this week, the LPGA is still six weeks away from its scheduled return at the Marathon Classic in Sylvania, Ohio. Marathon was bolstered with last week’s news that Ohio is lifting public gathering restrictions, clearing the path for the tournament to allow fans, pro-ams and corporate hospitality.
Whan said in a Q&A posted on LPGA.com Tuesday that title sponsorship commitment remains strong, even among events that have been canceled so far this year.
“What I’ve said to all of our sponsors is: 'I’d rather make sure we deliver value to you in a future year than force you to play in 2020, if I can’t deliver the value you expect this year,'” Whan said. “I’m saying, 'Give me another year on the contract if you’re not comfortable playing this year.’”
Whan’s focus throughout the pandemic’s challenge has been making sure the tour is as robust in 2021 as it was before the pandemic hit.
He assured players and fans the tour is in position to rebound strong.
“No matter how many events we deliver [this year], it’s not going to be the season that the athletes, caddies, fans or staff expected,” he said. “Nobody is going to walk away thinking 2020 was a great year for the LPGA.
“Knowing that, I’ve sent a very clear message to everyone I work with: Don’t win 2020 and lose long term. Because of that, I can tell you without question that our 2021 schedule will be the biggest you have ever seen on the LPGA tour. We will play in front of more fans, for more money, with more television than anything we’ve ever done before.”