LPGA “Up” in Many Ways as Tour Soars Past 30 Events in 2014
Early Start, Four New Events, and all-new International Crown Highlight Next Year’s Schedule
NAPLES, Florida (November 22, 2013) – One of the first questions asked of Commissioner Michael Whan when he joined the LPGA in 2010 was, ‘How many official events are required to have a great LPGA schedule?’ His answer reflected an ideal Tour schedule of between 30 and 32 events.
Friday morning at the season-ending CME Group Titleholders, Whan took center stage with Chief Marketing Officer Jon Podany, enthusiastically revealing a 2014 schedule that features 32 official tournaments and growth in several other key areas.
“Up” was the word of the day for the LPGA. The overall number of official tournaments grows by four, including three new events in North America. Prize money increases by more than $7 million, swelling to an all-time high of over $56 million, and 2014 television coverage jumps above 350 hours, surpassing the previous record set in 2013. The start date of the 2014 schedule also moves up on the calendar to January with the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic kicking off January 23-26.
“It’s certainly exciting to introduce the 2014 LPGA Tour Schedule,” Whan said. “There’s no doubt that our schedule has a little something for everyone; but most importantly, it creates more opportunities for our players, more coverage for our fans, and more exposure for the world’s best female golfers. The real credit for our growth goes to my incredible, customer-focused team in Daytona Beach, and the overwhelming support we get every week from our players on Tour.”
As an American-based Tour, one of Whan’s goals was to create more playing opportunities in North America for the LPGA’s membership. April brings a return to the Bay Area for the $1.8 million Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, August marks a trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan – the Tour’s first stop in the state since 2000 – for the $1.5 million Meijer LPGA Classic, and the fall portion of the schedule reveals a reunion with the Prattville, Alabama community after a one-year hiatus with the $1.3 million Alabama Classic on September 18-21.
Golf’s Global Tour also continues to find new overseas opportunities to showcase its talent. The LPGA’s Asian Swing grows by one in 2014 with the addition of a new fall event that will follow the annual trip to Taiwan and precede the long-running Mizuno Classic in Japan. As for the new event in Asia, the October 27-Nov 2 date and $2 million purse is set, but further details of the event will wait to be announced until February 2014 during the LPGA’s early Asian swing.
In all, 32 events are on tap – although a return to Portland for the 43rd year is still tentative.
After a magical 2013 run in the majors by the top three players in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings – Inbee Park, Suzann Pettersen and Stacy Lewis – the 2014 schedule is again highlighted by five major championships but there are some interesting twists. The 2014 slate includes a new stop for the Wegmans LPGA Championship at Monroe Golf Club, a return to Royal Birkdale for the RICOH Women’s British Open and a trip to the famed Pinehurst No. 2 course for the U.S. Women’s Open, which will be played one week after the men contest the U.S. Open at the same venue.
Excitement for the 2014 season actually began building back in January with the unveiling of the International Crown. The “Crown” will debut July 24-27 at Caves Valley Golf Club outside Baltimore and move to Rich Harvest Farms in 2016, and will offer an unofficial $1.6 million purse. It will be the first biennial, global team match-play event of its kind. The event will feature eight qualifying countries, which were determined based on the Official Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, competing to be “crowned” the best golfing nation in the world.
The eight countries (Australia, Chinese Taipei, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Thailand and the United States) were announced on Thursday. Four players will represent each country and those players will be announced at the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship held April 3-6 after the individual qualifying process is complete.
Highlighting the new additions to a growing domestic schedule in 2014 is the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, which was announced for the first time on Friday. The full-field event follows the LPGA LOTTE Championship in Hawaii and will take place April 24-27 at Lake Merced Golf Club outside San Francisco, Calif.
The Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic will mark the Tour’s first event in the Bay Area since 2010. It’s sponsored by Swinging Skirts, a successful Taiwanese group whose goal is to grow women’s golf and the golf industry in Taiwan. The event is co-sanctioned with the Taiwan LPGA, and will feature 120 LPGA players, as well as players from Taiwan. It becomes the first ever LPGA co-sanctioned tournament on American soil. The venue has long been a strong supporter of women’s golf, as Lake Merced was one of the first golf clubs to have no gender restriction in membership.
Another inaugural event in 2014 is the Meijer LPGA Classic which will be held just outside Grand Rapids, Mich. and gives the LPGA a Midwest footprint in a state rich with great golf courses and enthusiastic fan support. The event will take place August 7-10 at Blythefield Country Club in Belmont marking the Tour’s first visit to West Michigan and first stop in the state since a 9-year run in East Lansing ended in 2000.
Prattville, Ala. is no stranger to women’s golf. After a one-year break, the Alabama Classic is back and welcomes a full field to the Robert Trent Jones Trail’s Capitol Hill Course, September 18-21. With the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic on board for a fifth consecutive year, the state of Alabama joins California (3) as the only states with multiple LPGA events.
“Those who follow our Tour closely realize that when a community opens up their arms, we’ll do our best to hug them back,” said Whan. “Our goal is long-term relationships where both sponsors and fans come to know our players, and events become long-term traditions.”
Over the past few weeks, momentum built toward Friday’s schedule release with the November 6th announcement of Canadian Pacific as the new title sponsor for the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open- won each of the last two years by soon-to-be 2014 LPGA rookie Lydia Ko. The Canadian Pacific Women’s Open will be played at the London Hunt and Country Club in London, Ontario and follows the Wegmans LPGA Championship which not only moves to the Donald Ross-designed Monroe Golf Club as its new Pittsford, NY home, but also moves dates and swings to August in 2014.
In all, the 2014 schedule continues a roadmap of upward momentum as 12 new events have been added in the past three years to bolster a tournament schedule strong in corporate partnerships and community involvement, which also provides players more opportunities, fans more excitement and a promise of long-term stability.
“This is by no means a finished product,” Whan said. “But it’s an enjoyable journey right now for our players and our partners and we’re going to continue pushing toward something in which the LPGA’s Founders and LPGA fans can be proud. We’re excited about where we are, but even more excited about where we’re going!”
LPGA’s Upward Trend…
Total Official Money Events
Official North American Events
Official Asian Events
Official European Events
Unofficial Team Event
Topics: Press Release