On Thursday the LPGA and PGA of America announced a partnership to rebrand and form a new major championship, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, which will replace the Wegmans LPGA Championship, starting in 2015.
The move promises to bring a higher profile to the event — which already has a TV contract for weekend coverage by NBC and plans to rotate between elite courses that are near major U.S. cities.
Perhaps this sends a strong message that it’s the beginning of a new period on the LPGA, according to Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols, who has the details:
Gone is the LPGA’s flagship event, the LPGA Championship, which has been around since 1955. This bigger, better major will take place June 11-14 at Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., with a $3.5 million purse. That’s up from $2.25 million for this year’s event in Rochester, N.Y.
Weekend TV coverage will be live on NBC, and the championship will be held on courses with name recognition.
“I think what’s critical is we’re going to rotate this event,” said Pete Bevacqua, the PGA of America’s chief executive. “We really want to bring this event to some of the great golf courses in major markets around the country.”
Bevacqua said his team will do everything it can to make the KPMG Women’s PGA look and feel like the PGA Championship. Kerry Haigh, the PGA’s chief championships officer, will set up the course. And eight spots will be reserved for PGA and LPGA club pros to qualify.
“We will evaluate that number after 2015 and see if we should increase it,” Haigh said.
Westchester, the inaugural site of the KPMG Women’s PGA, played host to a PGA Tour event annually from 1963 through 2007 (excluding ’66), and was the site of the 2011 Senior Players Championship.
“Really I think network TV and venue is what’s going to separate this tournament,” said Lewis, whose nine LPGA victories include two major championships. “We needed to get outside of just the casual golf fan. That’s what network TV does.”
The inaugural Women’s PGA Championship will coincide with a women’s leadership summit headed up by title sponsor KPMG.
“This is going to be a celebration of women’s golf and women in business,” said Bevacqua.
LPGA Commissioner Whan added that the tournament will help “change lives” for the players competing and the women it will impact in both the leadership conference and community initiative.
“The Championship will now reach even greater levels of global exposure, player opportunities, and community impact,” said Whan.
Present for the announcement was world no. 2 Stacy Lewis, who was there to represent her fellow players. She spoke positively and enthusiastically about the new event.
“It’s so exciting to me as a player, to see how far we’ve come in just a few years,” said Stacy Lewis, who is sponsored by KPMG. “This event has a lot of things I’ve said the tour has needed for a long time. We needed the big purses at big venues on network TV and a big partner with KPMG. It’s really a home run from the players’ side. I think it only gets better from here. This is only the beginning.”