Evian agrees to major makeover

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan gives a speech after the final round of the 2010 Evian Masters on July 25, 2010, in Evian, France.

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan gives a speech after the final round of the 2010 Evian Masters on July 25, 2010, in Evian, France.

When Mike Whan traveled to France last summer, the LPGA commissioner took with him a list of 10 things that the Evian Masters needed to alter to be elevated to major-championship status.

One of the first: Change the name.

“The Evian” will debut as a major in the second week of September 2013, as Golfweek first reported July 11. In addition to enhanced network TV coverage, the LPGA asked for a “mega redesign” of Evian Golf Club.

The redesign team will be led by Steve Smyers, who will begin work after the 2012 tournament. Whan asked Smyers to provide bullet points on the redesign: “It’s 100 percent of the tees, 100 percent of the greens, 100 percent of the bunkers and 100 percent of the fairways,” Whan said. “Everything will be touched.”

Also, a two-tier amphitheater will be built to give fans what the tour has dubbed the “fantastic finish”: a unique view of the final four holes.

Franck Riboud, chairman and chief executive of Danone, the French food-products company, and the visionary behind the Evian event, first spoke with Whan about the event becoming a major before Whan officially started as commissioner in 2010.

Asked whether he feared Evian might leave the tour if denied major status, Whan conceded that the thought entered his mind but he “never felt threatened to do this or they go away.”

Whan began approaching players about the idea four months ago and was surprised to receive positive feedback when he expected resistance.

“The consistent theme was, ‘Hey, Mike, do what you’ve got to do to help the LPGA – quite frankly, female professional golf in general – (and) get the exposure and attention and opportunity that it needs.’ ”

The LPGA schedule has been culled from 33 tournaments in 2006 to 24 this year.

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