Featured Golf News
What the LPGA Could Use for Christmas
It has been a rocky couple of years for the LPGA. Let's hope that Santa brings the tour everything on its Christmas wish list for the 2010 season. Hopefully, next year will mark resurgence in women's professional golf in the U.S.
Here are some gifts for 2010 that newly elected LPGA Commissioner, Michael Whan, would probably love to see under the LPGA's Christmas tree:
More victories on the tour by American players
The American TV audience and sponsors would love to see more American players capturing titles in 2010, certainly more than the five victories in 28 events that Americans had in 2009. In contrast, South Korean players won 11 times on the LPGA Tour in 2009. Remember, there are only 50 million people in South Korea, compared to 315 million in the United States, and women's golf has only been popular in South Korea for a little over a decade. American players can learn a lot from the Koreans when it comes to work ethic and dedication.
Angela Stanford, Pat Hurst, Brittany Lincicome, and Cristie Kerr had strong starts to the 2009 season with four victories among them in the first nine events of the year. However, Americans then went winless for the next six months . . . from the middle of May until mid-November when Michelle Wie captured her first LPGA victory.
There are plenty of veteran American players capable of winning multiple events on the tour. There are also a few American rookies who could win in their first season. It will be very important for the future of the tour in this country for them to collectively step up to the tee in 2010 and make a lot of headlines with several victories.
Michelle Wie is the best-known and most widely followed American player on the LPGA. It may be too much to ask of her in what will be only her second full season, but the tour would love to see her become a dominating force. No other player would turn out more fans for events in this country or generate better ratings for TV coverage if she can start winning early in 2010 and capture several victories during the year.
Of course, there are several other popular and proven American players who could also generate more interest if they have spectacular seasons. However, Wie is the one player who could create the most media buzz and fan interest. It has been said that she could have a "Tiger-like" impact on the LPGA. In light of the recent news about Tiger Woods, that analogy does not seem appropriate anymore, but Wie could certainly affect the long-term popularity of the LPGA if she lives up to her billing.
Better TV coverage of the events
Let's face it: the television coverage of the LPGA events has been lackluster at best. Low production values, tape-delayed coverage, and a total lack of coverage of many events did very little in 2009 to help generate interest in the tour.
Golf Channel and LPGA will begin a new 10-year agreement this season. Let's hope that will translate into higher quality and more in-depth coverage of events. Golf Channel has a great opportunity to generate more viewers if it takes advantage of technology and production techniques that can help make the events "come alive" to viewers at home. There are also many great stories to be told about the players on the tour. Stories that would help viewers relate to the golfers they are watching.
New sponsor deals & new events for 2011
Whan begins his tenure with the LPGA at one of the lowest points in its history. Over the last two years, the tour has lost nine events. In 2010 it will have only 24 altogether and only 13 in the United States. It is hard to believe that the tour did not have a single event in Florida in 2009 and has none scheduled in the Sunshine State for the upcoming season.
Short of some huge shakeup in how women's professional golf is played internationally, the U.S. will always be the economic foundation of the LPGA. High on Commissioner Whan's list of priorities will be finding new sponsors and new event organizers willing to support the tour here in this country. There are some gaping holes in the LPGA schedule in 2010: a four-week stretch from mid-May to mid-June, and three open weeks between early July and late August.
Economic realities and international developments in the game will continue to put a lot of pressure on the tour as it tries to redefine itself going forward. There are many hurdles for the LPGA to clear in 2010 and the years ahead. Maybe Santa is a fan and will help out.
Dave Andrews is a Harvard-educated former television news reporter. He's also an avid golfer who has become a fan of the Duramed Futures Tour. His home course in Concord, N.H., is annually the site of one of the tour's events. The inspiration for Dave's 2007 novel, "Pops and Sunshine," came from meeting many of the young aspiring women golfers on that tour. Each of them has a passion, dedication and determination that he finds remarkable. His novel is a fictionalization of the dream that these young women share. To order Dave's book, visit http://popsandsunshine.com.