Asians May Abandon LPGA

For all of the jingoists who railed against the wave of Asian players on the LPGA, you may be getting your wish. GolfWeek magazine reports that

The word filtering out of Japan is that a significant number of Asian LPGA members are trying to secure Japan LPGA playing privileges for 2010. This makes complete sense for a variety of reasons. First, the JLPGA will have more than 30 tournaments next year while the LPGA is likely to be closer to 20. Also, with many LPGA purses being cut for 2010, the gap between LPGA and JLPGA prize money – the JLPGA used to pay out about two-thirds what the American tour pays – the gap will be much smaller.

The list of potential defectors includes Korean major championship winners Eun-Hee Ji and Inbee Park, as well as Meena Lee, Young Kim, Na Yeon Choi, Seon Hwa Lee and Amy Yang.

This turn of events is particularly interesting given the LPGA’s five year deal with Korean broadcaster JoongAng Broadcasting Corporation, which signed in February 2008. In addition to carrying LPGA events in Korea, the company took on the role fo title sponsor of the former Safeway tournament in Phoenix, and will sponsor a new tournament in Southern California from 2010 to 2014. The JBC obviously assumed that Korea’s best talent would play on the LPGA Tour; now that may not be the case.

The JLPGA apparently also is recruiting European LPGA players. I’ve not seen any articles on the health of the ELPGA, but it strikes me as though that could be another option for LPGA players facing a shortage of playing time.  Even if the payout is lower than an LPGA event, a couple of weeks in Europe during slow times in the US can’t be a bad thing. It seems to work for a number of PGA Tour-European Tour crossovers.

The LPGA needs to get a commissioner in place soon. Otherwise it may be too late to stop the bleeding.

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