LPGA schedule to begin in January for first time in a long while
By Stephanie Wei under LPGA
LPGA to open in the Bahamas

LPGA to open in the Bahamas

Perhaps you can call it a Baker’s Dozen. For the first time in 13 years, the 2014 LPGA tournament schedule will kick off in January. On Wednesday the LPGA announced that the second-annual Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic will serve as the Tour’s season-opening event when it returns to the Ocean Club Golf Course at Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas, January 20-26, 2014.

Great news — it’s beautiful 99% of the time in the Bahamas in January, so that sounds like a better date with some much more predictable weather than when the inaugural event was held this past May. As you may recall, it wasn’t the best time to be on the island as storms and a flooded golf course hampered the tournament, which was eventually shortened to a 12-hole track and 3-day event (36 holes total to make it official).

From the release:

“It will be great to start our season in Paradise,” said LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan. “Playing in The Bahamas in an East Coast time zone will be a great way for our fans to watch our season-opening event live on Golf Channel.”

The move takes the tournament from late May to late January in advance of the Tour’s traditional February Asia-Pacific swing. In 2013, Ilhee Lee became a Rolex First-Time Winner with her victory at the inaugural Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic, which was rain-shortened to 36 holes.

“We are big believers in the LPGA,” said Barbasol/Pure Silk CEO Thomas Murray. “We had a tremendous inaugural tournament last May and are thrilled to have the opportunity to kick-off the LPGA season in The Bahamas.”

The last time the LPGA played an official money event in January was 2001, when three were contested during the month.

“The Bahamas are excited to be the season-opening event location for the LPGA tour in 2014.  We think there is a special relationship between golf fans and early tour events as everyone dreams of summer and imagines the joy golf will bring them,” said Mr. David Johnson, Director General of The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. “These are certainly emotions we are happy to be associated with in The Bahamas.  We fully expect that our weather will be picture perfect for this event and the players, and viewers, will get a good look at the attractions of our destination.  Our islands are a year-round destination for golfers and this January kick-off for the ladies golf season will surely showcase that,”

Golf Channel will feature four-day live coverage of the 72-hole, $1.3 million tournament.

Sounds like a wonderful event to cover, as well…

Better news — the chatter around the LPGA’s 2014 season has revolved around the introduction of more domestic tournaments, according to Golfweek’s Beth Ann Baldry:

But Golfweek has learned that a new event near Grand Rapids, Mich., is close to being finalized for next August. Meijer, a hypermarket chain based in Grand Rapids, is slated to be the title sponsor, and Blythefield Country Club in Belmont the event’s host. Though not an official LPGA event, the Meijer Charity Classic Pro-Am in Grand Rapids has attracted many players for years.

Blythefield opened in 1929 and hosted the 1953 Western Amateur, 1961 Western Open and 2005 Western Junior. Dale Morey, Arnold Palmer and Rickie Fowler won those three events, respectively.

Another possibility for 2014 comes as a bit of a shock: Nantucket. There’s an island few LPGA insiders would’ve considered. But hey, no complaints here. September in Nantucket, a.k.a. “Shoulder Season,” means 70-degree temps and lower prices.

Miacomet Golf Club, the island’s only public facility, would be the future site. (Miacomet and LPGA officials met in late August.) Owned by Nantucket Island Land Bank, the course is located on a portion of the island once inhabited by Native Americans. Miacomet means “the meeting place.”

I see another common theme: Sweet destination locations. Hope these deals are finalized soon. It’ll be great for the ladies to have a more steady domestic schedule, though they do a good job of bunching the tourneys overseas so that the players aren’t recovering from jetlag.