A closer look at the 2010 LPGA schedule

LPGA commissioner Michael Whan prior to the start of the LPGA Championship.

LPGA commissioner Michael Whan prior to the start of the LPGA Championship.

SUGAR LAND, Texas – Zayra Calderon finally got a good night’s sleep.

The LPGA’s 2010 schedule, while not complete, has been published and it’s meatier than many expected. Calderon, a fast-talking Costa Rican who worked seven days a week since former commissioner Carolyn Bivens was ousted, predicted she’d deliver 25 events during a phone interview more than four months ago.

“I’m still good for that,” she said today at Sugar Land’s City Hall, where the LPGA unveiled next year’s calendar. Calderon was promoted to executive vice president tournament development & worldwide sales after Bivens stepped down in July.

Interim commissioner Marty Evans laid out a 2010 schedule that listed 23 events under contract and an event in South Korea as TBD. Sources tell Golfweek that two events actually might take place in Korea next year – in May and October – making Calderon look prophetic, not to mention quite good at her job.

“We had nine tournaments under contract in July,” Evans said, when asked to assess the difficulty of the past four months. Picking up the pieces of Bivens’ shattered “Vision 2010” took a toll on the folks in Daytona Beach headquarters. 

“It was exhausting,” Calderon said. “I was getting contracts scanned and faxed yesterday.”

Six months ago, Nov. 18 seemed destined to be cloaked in a suffocating atmosphere of doom and gloom. Instead, the day turned out far better than expected, especially with Michelle Wie creating a one-woman media blitz with her first victory just days earlier. Plus, Bivens was replaced by someone – new commissioner Michael Whan – who speaks golf and actually can work a room; and the 2010 schedule has only three fewer tournaments than 2009.

Yes, golf fans, things are looking up for the LPGA.

• Whan attended his first LPGA player meeting Nov. 17 and was struck by the number of women who said, “Welcome to the family.”

“It’s exciting to be back in a business meeting where it’s OK to bring a wedge,” said Whan, whose background includes executive tenures at TaylorMade Golf and Wilson Golf. (All good brainstorming at the Golfweek office occurs while swinging a club. We get it.)

• The total number of events is down, but it’s a solid start for Calderon and her team to build upon. She plans to put together a team of tournament hunters and deploy them to key markets around the country, instructing members to stay put until they’ve scoured under every stone. The hit-list: Phoenix, Colorado, Washington, D.C., Georgia and Florida.

• Looking ahead to 2011, the LPGA hopes to add a tournament in Chicago, with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange as a possible title sponsor. 

Donald Trump also is very interested in hosting an event at Trump National Golf Club in Washington, a property that he purchased earlier this year on the Potomac River.

Trump previously hosted the ADT Championship at his course in West Palm Beach, Fla. The format and venue were wildly successful. 

When Evans was asked whether the ADT event’s playoff system still was on the table, she gave a deer-in-headlights look. Let’s hope Whan becomes familiarized with the million-dollar payout and brings it back in 2011. With ADT.

• It’s disappointing that the LPGA has to use Wegmans – which agreed to be the presenting sponsor for the LPGA Championship for one year – as a Band-Aid for the tour’s major. But it proves how much Bivens hindered negotiations with the longtime LPGA partner. At one point with Bivens still in charge, Wegmans looked unlikely to return even as a title sponsor for its regular tour stop. Rumor had it she was shown the door during tournament week.

For Calderon, Wegmans was her “first victory.” The grocery chain was the first sponsor to renew and signed a three-year contract once Evans took over as acting commissioner. Wegmans increased its purse to $2.25 million for 2010 and agreed to serve as presenting sponsor of the year’s third major. 

The LPGA hopes to secure a five-year contract with another sponsor for its major, however, beginning in 2011 and likely will move the LPGA Championship back to May. Wegmans would return to being a regular tour stop.

• To help give lower-tier LPGA players more opportunities to play, the Duramed Futures Tour has relaxed its criteria for LPGA members to play its events. Calderon said “just about anybody other than the top 80” on the LPGA money list can take advantage of the developmental circuit.

• The LPGA also will announce two unofficial events in Brazil and Jamaica, likely to take place following the Kraft Nabisco in April. Not ideal, but it’s money.

Of course, not everything in Sugar Land is sugarcoated. TV remains a major area of concern, with only the Kraft Nabisco signed up for network coverage. The Evian Masters is the only other tournament that has expressed an interest in learning more about network options. 

The remaining domestic events will be shown on Golf Channel, and tour officials will meet with the cable channel’s executives in the next two weeks to iron out the details. It will be interesting to see where the LPGA falls on the weekly broadcast totem pole.

There are several TBDs on the 2010 schedule, including this week’s Tour Championship. The event in China, canceled this year, doesn’t have a sponsor or course listed for 2010. Sybase Classic is another glaring omission. Calderon said that when ShopRite pulled out as presenting sponsor of Sybase (to title sponsor its own event), sport management firm Octagon, which owns the Sybase tournament, decided to pull the plug. Sybase remains committed as title sponsor, but Octagon won’t put on the event until it finds a replacement presenting sponsor.

While a host of question marks remain for 2010 and beyond, the fear that gripped this organization for so many months seems to be subsiding. Players can find hope in a new leader and fresh vision. Even the announcement that Tony Ponturo, the man formerly behind the Anheuser-Busch marketing engine, has joined the LPGA Board of Directors brings a sense of calm. The LPGA can’t have enough Ponturos in its back pocket.

It feels like this organization, now entering its 60th year, is getting a fresh start. 2009 can’t end soon enough.

 
2010 LPGA Schedule

Date Tournament Location
Feb. 18-21 Honda PTT LPGA Thailand Chonburi, Thailand
Feb. 25-28 HSBC Women's Champions Singapore
March 25-28 LPGA Classic Carlsbad, Calif.
April 1-4 Kraft Nabisco Championship Rancho Mirage, Calif.
April 29-May 2 Tres Marias Championship Morelia, Mexico
May 13-16 Bell Micro LPGA Classic Mobile, Ala.
June 10-13 State Farm Classic Springfield, Ill.
June 18-20 ShopRite LPGA Classic Galloway, N.J.
June 24-27 LPGA Championship Pittsford, N.Y.
July 1-4 Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic Sylvania, Ohio
July 8-11 U.S. Women's Open Oakmont, Pa.
July 22-25 Evian Masters Evian-les-Bains, France
July 29-Aug. 1 Ricoh Women's British Open South Port, England
Aug. 20-22 Safeway Classic North Plains, Ore.
Aug. 26-29 CN Canadian Women's Open Winnipeg, Canada
Sept. 10-12 P&G NW Arkansas Championship Rogers, Ark.
Sept. 30-Oct. 3 Acapulco LPGA Classic Acapulco, Mexico
Oct. 7-10 Navistar LPGA Classic Prattville, Ala.
Oct. 14-17 CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge Danville, Calif.
Oct. 29-31 LPGA China China
Nov. 5-7 Mizuno Classic Shima-shi, Japan
Nov. 11-14 Lorena Ochoa Invitational Guadalajara, Mexico
Nov. 18-21 LPGA Tour Championship TBD
  • The LPGA schedule lists an additional event in Korea, but officials have yet to release a date, sponsor or location.
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