Exclusive: the (Encouraging) 2012 LPGA Schedule Ahead of Schedule (Update)
By Stephanie Wei under LPGA

Let's give a big round of applause to Mike Whan

The 2012 LPGA schedule hasn’t been officially released to the media or public, but somehow it managed to magically appear in my inbox. A belated Christmas present! — no, really. Once I opened the email and perused the schedule, I realized there was quite a bit of good news. Which makes me super-stoked for the LPGA and the players.

First of all, Commissioner Mike Whan deserves a standing ovation/slow clap. Whan has delivered on his promise of a more robust schedule in 2012. At first glance it looks much more cohesive than the 2011 season. Instead of the stop-and-go tour the ladies have endured in recent years, 2012 seems like it will bring continuity (no month-plus long breaks). The 2012 schedule boasts 28 (**Update: sounds like it might drop to 27 soon and then probably 26) official tournaments, compared to the 23 in 2011.

The rundown and highlights:

*There are three (*Update: two if Hawaii isn’t happening) new events that had yet to be revealed, along with the two that had been previously announced, the season-opening ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open and Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in Canada. Additionally, the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic is returning after a one-year hiatus. Which means five new tournaments or six if you count the Jamie Farr.

*The tour only officially lost one event, the LPGA State Farm Classic. However, Tres Marias in Mexico will likely be canceled due to safety concerns.

*Of the five four (**update) new tournaments, two are one is domestic, and with Waterloo in Canada, that’s three two in North America.

*According to an LPGA player, who asked to remain anonymous, the Hawaii event will likely be held at Turtle Bay and backed by an Asian sponsor, which was gleaned from the asterisk included at the bottom of the schedule: “*Hawaii would likely be a Wednesday-Saturday event (Saturday finish) due to sponsor/television needs.” **Update: Sources say Hawaii event fell through, but awaiting confirmation from local officials.

*The aforementioned source also said the “New Event” might be in California or Texas, but her best guess is the former since the two tour stops right before are in Portland and Vancouver. The sponsor is still unknown and classified as top-secret intel. As long as there is a company committed to backing the tournament, then it doesn’t really mean anything to me, but it’s a little suspect just because deals usually are locked up before year-end. So let’s be cautiously hopeful. Another LPGA player who wishes to remain unnamed said that at a recent player meeting, Whan told the ladies they were working on bringing a tournament back to Florida (Palm Beach area). Again, it’s probably best to stay cautiously optimistic about this event actually happening, too. Fingers crossed!

*Hawaii, Waterloo and “New Event” are full-field tournaments. China will probably be “semi-full field” with 90 spots — similar to Taiwan, except there will be a cut.

*With the new Australia event, four full-field events have been added to 2012.

*As reported earlier this month, the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup will feature a legitimate purse in 2012, thanks to Mike Whan. In other words, the players will get paid, unlike the experiment in the inaugural year.

*Without further ado, here’s a peek at the 2012 schedule:

Feb. 6-12 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open $1.1M (Victoria, AT)
Feb. 13-19 Honda Thailand $1.5M (Thailand)
Feb. 20-26 HSBC Women’s Champions $1.4M  (Singapore)
March 12-18 RR Donnelley Founders Cup $1.5M (Phoenix, AZ)
March 19-25 Kia Classic $1.7M (La Costa, CA)
March 26-1 Kraft Nabisco Championship $2.0M (Palm Springs, CA)
April 9-15 Tres Marias (Unlikely – due to safety) $1.2M (Morelia, MX)
April 16-22 New Hawaii Event* TBD
April 23-29 Mobile Bay LPGA Classic $1.2M (Mobile, AL)
April 30-May 6 HSBC Brasil Cup 2012 – Unofficial $0.8M (San Paulo, BR)
May 14-20 Sybase Match Play Championship $1.5M (Gladstone, NJ)
May 28-3 ShopRite LPGA Classic $1.5M (Atlantic City, NJ)
June 4-10 Wegmans LPGA Championship $2.5M (Rochester, NY)
June 18-24 Manulife Financial LPGA Classic $1.3M (Waterloo, ON)
June 25-1 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship $2.0M (Rogers, AR)
July 2-8 U.S. Women’s Open $3.25M (Kohler, WI)
July 23 Evian Masters $3.25M (Evian les Bains, France)
Aug. 6-12 Jamie Farr Toledo Classic $1.3M (Toledo, OH)
Aug. 13-19 Safeway Classic $1.5M (North Plains, OR)
Aug. 20-26 CN Canadian Women’s Open $2.25M (Vancouver, BC)
Aug 27-2 New Domestic Event TBD
Sept. 10-16 Ricoh Women’s British Open $2.75M (Wirral, UK)
Sept. 17-23 Navistar LPGA Classic $1.3M (Prattville, AL)
Oct. 1-7 New China Event TBD
Oct. 8-14 Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia $1.9M (Malaysia)
Oct. 15-21 LPGA Hana Bank Championship $1.8M (Korea)
Oct. 22-28 Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship $2.0M (Taiwan)
Oct. 29-4 Mizuno Classic $1.2M (Japan)
Nov. 5-11 Lorena Ochoa Invitational $1.0M (Guadalajara, MX)
Nov. 12-18 CME Group Titleholders $1.5M (Naples, FL)
Dec. 9 Wendy’s 3 Tour Challenge – Unofficial $1.0M (Henderson, NV)

Well, that’s it for now. More updates in the next week when we learn more. LPGA officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Kudos to Whan, who has clearly worked tirelessly to get those tournaments and put together a promising schedule in 2012. I’m thrilled and so excited for the LPGA and its players — they’ve persevered and fought through tough times the last four or so years, yet managed to stay optimistic. It’s about time they received some encouraging news and I’m looking forward to covering more events onsite in the upcoming year.

**Update: Sources say the Hawaii event fell through, I’m still waiting for 100% confirmation from local officials.

***Update 2: Great news — Hawaii is happening after all!

(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images North America)