With everything that happened over the past 48 hours, I’ll excuse you if you weren’t paying much attention to the LPGA Tour. Which is the problem: nobody really is. Despite having young & talented players, pushing the sex appeal angle as hard as they can, and taking draconian steps to improve the tour’s visibility (remember English Only-Gate?), the tour is sinking to WNBA levels of irrelevancy.
(Anna Rawson might have more free time to secure domain names.)
This became painfully evident last week, when word came out that the tour was being forced to cancel its event at Kapalua in Hawaii scheduled for October because of the lack of a title sponsor. Which means that the tour schedule might have only 10 stops in the U.S. next year, including none in Hawaii, Arizona or Florida. But - to paraphrase “This is Spinal Tap” - that’s OK: those aren’t big golfing areas, anyway.
The whole situation has apparently pushed some of the top players in the game past the breaking point, and are taking dead aim at controversial LPGA Commisioner Carolyn Bivens. GOLF.COM reports that around a dozen of the biggest names had a dinner meeting last Thursday to discuss what is wrong with the LPGA, which in their minds is Bivens. This allegedly lead to a letter being sent to LPGA President Michelle Ellis “expressing a loss of faith in Bivens’s leadership and policies” (which Ellis denies having received).
But while players aren’t publicly coming out to rip Bivens, no one is rushing to her defense, either, and you can understand why. She’s a magnet for controversy, which would be fine if she showed any acumen at running a sports franchise. Recently she took heat for idiotically stating that she would “love it if players Twittered during the middle of a round.” And at the first LPGA Tour event under her reign, she tried to claim that the LPGA owned rights to stories and pictures from the event and managed to stir up a media boycott.
At least she doesn’t have to worry about those pesky Koreans not speaking English and ruining her PR plans - many of the top Korean players are said to be considering playing in Japan because of more opportunities. Can you blame them? In the last two years, the tour has lost seven tournaments, and six more are currently without sponsors.
When Bivens came on board four years ago, she aggressively raised the costs associated with hosting a tournament, potentially driving out longtime stops like the Wegmans Championship by charging them more than $100,000 in scoreboard and sanctioning fees (it used to be $17,000). All of which seems to be backfiring big time. So if you love women’s golf, get ready for early morning coverage from Japan on the Golf Channel.
Me? I’ll be limiting my women’s golf action to hiring lovely ladies like Blair O’Neal (above) to join my foursome.