There’s been quite a bit of media coverage on the state of the LPGA recently. For the most part, it’s been about the challenges they’ve been facing, like losing sponsorships for tournaments. However, I see the amount of press that the LPGA is receiving in a positive light – people are paying attention and concerned about the future of the Tour and the players.
The LPGA has been forced to cut back their schedule by 5 events this season, from 34 to 29. Sure, that sucks, but look, the entire world is experiencing economic difficulties – The Tour could be in a much worse situation than it is – and the players do still have their jobs. And yes, there are less tournaments domestically, but, the purses have increased by almost 10% over the past few years (that is, until this year). The bottom-line is that the difference in their earnings isn’t as big of a deal as it’s made out to be.
On the upside, women’s golf has the potential to be a huge global sport. The Tour has a fan base that extends worldwide. Players hail from 27 different countries, all of which have established fan bases. Ultimately, over the next few years, the LPGA schedule will become more global. They’ll play in select domestic events and then internationally, where the demand is great and for more lucrative purses. Of course, the downside is that they’ll have to travel more, but playing professional golf is the career they have chosen.
More recently, it seems the LPGA and the players are embracing this new trend. Undoubtedly, it’s an advantageous one – as global athletes, they’ll be more opportunities with sponsorships, endorsements, and paid appearances. The ladies, some more than others, are already celebrities of sorts and I could see more and more of them becoming household names outside of golf.
The question is how to gain more mainstream support. Social media outlets, like Twitter, Facebook and blogs will likely have a viral impact. But traditional forms of media, like consistent television coverage, radio and commercials (when was the last time you saw a commercial that featured an LPGA pro?) will still be important factors. Younger faces (a-hem) covering the tournaments and taking golf to a wider audience will have to be a strong selling point.
The biggest takeaway from my experience at Sybase was that the emerging talent will do wonders for the Tour. The energy was absolutely amazing. I’ve said it before but I’m going to say it again, these ladies are fun, attractive, stylish, dynamic and charming. The sponsors, the fans and the volunteers love them. They simply have a great product.
With that said, I don’t feel like there’s a need to press the panic button. It’s tough economically for all the Tours worldwide, at the moment, not to mention, other sports. Have you seen the attendance in baseball recently? At the end of the day, the LPGA will be fine and will emerge stronger than ever.
Watch out when 2011 rolls around.