Thursday, July 9, 2009

LPGA Tour in Some Disarray...

With word emanating from the LPGA Tour that commissioner Carolyn Bevins is about to be removed from the position, one wonders what the next step will be for those who initiated the action. Bivens signed a three-year contract extension in 2008, so there will be a cheque to write if she is shown the door.

In recent years, the LPGA Tour has experienced the loss of tournament sponsorships and indeed, the loss of tournaments. As I write this, the circuit has only ten confirmed events for the 2010 season.

Whether or not Bivens is the real problem or the real scapegoat remains to be determined. What she has had to deal with in recent years is quite an Everest to climb. That is...

1. The retirement of Annika Sorenstam. How do you replace a marquee talent with such obvious appeal? Lorena Ochoa, an outstanding talent in her own right, has not proven that she is the answer to Sorenstam's abscence. On the men's side there are two PGA Tour' with Tiger Woods and one without him.

2. The economic downturn in the USA. Maybe this is the magic bullet? If company's are tightening their collective belts, how attractive is the LPGA Tour these days?

3. American winners. Really, over the past few years there have not been enough of these!! Many of the supposed "superstars" who initiated the correspondence recommending Bivens' ouster simply have not been doing enough winning! American companies like American champions. These "superstars" have not been winning enough on American soil!

4. Non-American winners. The emergence of Asian dominance...well, this just supports point number 3.

5. Sex Appeal Sells. A Golf Channel producer once told me that "these women take themselves too seriously as athletes to do anything that would undermine their Tour." Well, that might be fine, well and good, but there are many beautiful female athletes on the LPGA Tour that could enhance the Tour's profile by making some front page news instead of accepting that being buried on the back pages of the sports section is okay. Now, this isn't about doing anything ludicrous, but hey, why not loosen up? Where's Jan Stephenson when you need her?

I have also been waiting for comment from Gail Graham, president of theTournament Owners Association. As many folks in the know are aware, she has ties to Kelowna. At the 2007 CN Ladies Open in Edmonton, I interviewed Graham for an Inside Golf magazine story about her new role with the T.O.A. Predictably, she and the T.O.A. are distancing themselves from the current turmoil.

“All I can say is the Tournament Owners Association has taken a hands-off approach,” Graham said in an interview posted on the Golf Channel website. “This is the business of the LPGA, and the players have spoken. It’s not up to us.”

Having covered LPGA Tour events in person, the talent level of these women is incredible. They play a different game than the men and it is amazing to watch from inside the ropes. But at the end of the day, this product has problems. Let's hope the fortunes improve quickly!

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