News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 14, 2009

ON AND OFF THE COURSE: In a bad economy, should LPGA raise its fees?

By Jennifer Myers

TERRE HAUTE — For 31 years The LPGA’s Corning Classic was held at Corning Country Club in Corning, N.Y., with Corning Glassware as its title sponsor. This year, however, was the end of an era as LPGA players played their final rounds in its’ longest-running event. Due to many factors Corning chose to not renew their contract for 2010.

The bad economy was an obvious culprit, but was not solely responsible. Corning Glassware was hit hard by the global recession, which led to a 13 percent reduction in its workforce (650 jobs. There was also a 50 percent drop in sponsorship support, which amounted to $500,000. Projected cost increases for the 2010 event were $300,000, and for 2011, when the purse was to increase from $1.5 million to $1.7 million, meaning the cost increase for the sponsor would be $675,000.

Not only are the purses for events increasing, television production costs will be going from $255,000 a year to $425,000 in 2010, with five percent increases each year through 2013. The reason has to do with the LPGA’s new business plan, referred to as “Vision 2010”.

Vision 2010 is a business plan that reorganizes the LPGA into three key business units: Tournament Operations and Player Services, New Business Development and Worldwide Sales, and LPGA Tournament and Schedule Development.

According to an article in the June 1 edition of Golf World, the LPGA tour wants to increase purses and improve benefits for players. That amounts to added costs for tournaments though. Specifically, an added cost that would become the full responsibility of the events are the scoreboards. Currently that cost is shared with the LPGA.

There is also a large increase in the sanction fee, as well as making tournaments pay half of the Golf Channel’s production costs. The LPGA has been somewhat flexible on those counts, but only for the near term, a delay of one year. The Corning organizers looked at the long-term picture and decided that the numbers couldn’t work for them, hence the end of an era.

Over the last year, other events that have gone by the wayside are the Fields Open, Ginn Open, Ginn Tribute, SemGroup Championship, SBS Open and the ADT Championship. The LPGA Tour Championship will be played in November without its previous title sponsor Stanford Financial. For next year, the Phoenix event doesn’t have a sponsor lined up, nor does the LPGA Championship, which will lose McDonald’s after this year.

McDonald’s is pulling out, and the LPGA is raising rates? Do they know something we don’t know? It seems like they should be cutting costs in order to keep sponsors, not raise rates.

I guess we will all have to wait and see what new events come about under Vision 2010. I’m guessing many of them will be international events. The LPGA already has 11 tour events played outside of the United States: five in Asia, two in Europe and three in Mexico. Meanwhile, the LPGA is struggling to generate interest in its home country. Some serious marketing of the tour needs to be done along with the new business plan in order to make it work. Otherwise, I’m afraid the LPGA is just going to get smaller or just pack up and move to another country.

n Twin Bridges Is fun and not far — Last weekend, Andy and I drove to Danville, Ind., to play a course called Twin Bridges. Twin Bridges, which opened in 1997, was designed by Robert Lohmann more than 250-plus acres along White Lick Creek. From the back tees it is 7,058 yards with a rating of 74.4. From the gray tees, the next tees forward, it is 6,568 yards with a rating of 71.6. I was impressed with the large greens with lots of undulations, making a three-putt a definite possibility if your approach shot didn’t end up near the pin. The best part of the day though, as many of you in the Terre Haute area would understand, is that there weren’t any gnats!

Greens fees on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday are $24 for 18 holes. Saturday, Sunday and Holidays they are $33. Cart fees for are $14 for 18 holes.

Every Wednesday they run a special called “Wild Wednesday”. On those days it’s only $22 with a cart for 18 holes or $11 with a cart for 9 holes. You can make tee times online at www.twinbridgesgolfclub.com or by calling (317) 745-9098.

n Quote of the Day — “You can complain about it or you can accept it. At this point, we’re grateful to have tournaments.” — Reilly Rankin, a six-year LPGA pro currently ranked 89th on the tour’s money list, commenting on the tour’s shrinking tournament schedule and higher percentage of limited-field events.