Oct
15
2009
The State of the LPGA Is…Good?
By Stephanie Wei under General

Last night I popped by the LPGA’s Corporate Outing at Chelsea Piers. This was a non-media event. The suggested attire was “business casual.” Exactly. I know. Boring, right?

Surprisingly, I came away a little more informed (and a little more drunk) than I expected. I interviewed Cristie Kerr and Brittany Lincicome (stay tuned!). There was a generous open bar (hence the drunky-ness), which “wouldn’t close until the last bit of alcohol was poured.” This is the last desperate hope of the LPGA to make the sport more appealing to corporate sponsors: GET THEM LOADED. (Just kidding.)

LPGA Acting Commissioner Marty Evans, who still carries the dignified air of a Navy admiral, kicked off the presentation with glowing, positive adjectives about the state of the LPGA like “resurging” and “resilient.” Right now they have close to 20 committed events for 2010, but there will be at least 25 tournaments, with a few more in the works. There are also five new tournaments for next year — the Bell-Micro is returning from a year off and the others will be held in Acapulco, Southern California, the Midwest and another is a “a train ride or short car ride from NYC” (Liberty National?) — all will be announced in upcoming weeks. This is great news, considering that a few months ago the outlook for a robust tournament season was bleak.

And guess what?! The LPGA finally signed a new title sponsor for the LPGA Championship, which will be confirmed next week (yay!). No specifics, just that the sponsor is a global company, based in the US, and does 75% of its business overseas and 25% domestically. So, it kind of resembles the LPGA tour members.

And more good news — after the LPGA laid off 8 people last week, they’ve decided to start hiring some new people with TV experience because of the deal with the Golf Channel that begins next season. So, you know, no more old, ugly people.

As to the commissioner search, not much was shared — other than the committee was taking its time until they found the right fit. Translation: They have no idea if the person will actually take the job.

Moving on! The panel portion was comprised of some of the industry’s biggest marketing heavyweights like Tony Ponturo, CEO of Ponturo Management Group, Tom McGovern, Managing Director of Optimum Sports, and Tony Pace, CMO of Subway.

Pace was lucky this was a non-media event given some of his obnoxious comments about how they select the athletes they sponsor — or didn’t sponsor. In so many words, he advised a sponsor that was very eager to go after Michelle Wie a few years ago to wait until “she did something.” And now, he said, they’re thanking him for convincing them otherwise. Ouch.

At least he was honest and did give the audience real insight in regard to how these sponsorship deals get done and added many real positive things about the marketability of the LPGA.

So, the takeaway from the night: I feel good about next year’s schedule, not so good about this morning’s hangover.

[Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images]