LPGA Player Rebellion Roundup

The player revolt against LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens is the hot topic in golf this week, with various pundits weighing in. One thing they all seem to agree on, though: Bivens must go.

Lorne Rubenstein in the Globe and Mail says the Tour is in real trouble when a hitherto unknown Canadian Tournament can legitimately claim to be the hottest thing on the LPGA Tour.

Late last winter, the Royal Canadian Golf Association indicated that its sponsorship package for the 2009 CN Canadian Women’s Open was 66 per cent sold out. Its pitch to sponsors was: “The hottest event on the LPGA Tour rides into Calgary just in time for summer 2009.”

Corporate product is 90 per cent sold out now. Some $266,000 has been raised for the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation via a program called CN Miracle Match. The tournament, Aug. 31 to Sept. 6, is a winner.

But guess what? Notwithstanding the bang-up job that CN has done with the tournament since assuming title sponsorship in 2004, it’s not that difficult to be “the hottest event on the LPGA Tour.”

Ron Sirak says its a good time for Bivens to go:  Sirak writes:

If there is such a thing as a good time for bad news, then this is it for LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens. With a letter signed by 15 prominent players calling for the commissioner’s resignation freshly in the hands of Board chair Dawn Hudson the tour enters what amounts to a media black hole. Following the women’s game’s showcase event this week at the U.S. Women’s Open, the tour won’t be back in the U.S. until mid-August. And that raises the question: If a commissioner falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a noise?

That’s a point your friendly neighborhood GolfBlogger made Tuesday.:

Bivens has two years left on her contract, but this would be a good week for her to go. There’s a huge gap in the LPGA schedule for the next few weeks. This week is the USGA’s US Open. That’s followed by the Evian Masters in France on July 23 – 26, the British Open July 20 – August 2, the Solheim Cup August 2 – 5. The next regular LPGA stop, as far as I can tell is the Safeway Classic on Aug. 26 – 30.

Dave Seanor suggests that even getting rid of Bivens can’t save the tour, and that either IMG or the PGA Tour might have absorb the LPGA.

Management powerhouse IMG could come to the rescue. The Cleveland-based company, best known for handling the business affairs of Tiger Woods, has expertise in golf tournament operations, sponsorship and broadcasting. It has a global reach.  It represents more than 15 LPGA players, including Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbus and Yani Tseng.

Sure, it can be argued that IMG running the LPGA would be a gross conflict of interest. In reality, that line in golf disappeared years ago.

Nor is it for-fetched that the PGA Tour might absorb a failed LPGA sometime after 2012, depending on the outcome of upcoming negotiations for TV rights. Deals with CBS and NBC expire after the 2012 season, but the agreement with Golf Channel, which is owned by cable giant Comcast, runs through 2021.

David Moulton says that the LPGA may want to draft Nancy Lopez to be the new face of the tour—at least on a temporary basis.

Who can come in at the 11th hour and save the LPGA Tour from the disaster that is shaping up as their 2010 season?

Nancy Lopez.

She’s 52 now. Her family is all but out of the house (youngest of three daughters is going to be a senior in high school). She has a ton of exactly what this Tour needs right now: likability and credibility.

As a legend, she has credibility with everyone, but let’s start with the players. This is a tour divided. Not by age but by region. This Tour has Americans, Koreans, some Europeans and Lorena Ochoa (from Mexico). Who would be better able to bring the tour “together” than Nancy Lopez, the first minority LPGA superstar?

She will have likability and credibility with sponsors. This is a tour that has lost seven tournaments in two years and could be losing more. There are reports that the tour only has 10 locked-in sponsors for events for 2010. Ten! Longtime sponsors and cities are running away from the LPGA Tour.

I can’t figure out for the life of me why the PGA Tour would want the LPGA. It’s got troubles of its own.

And finally, Larry Bohannan of the Desert Sun says that the only surprise is that no one asked her to resign sooner:

If there are any surprises in the sudden call for LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens’ resignation, it is that the call came from top players, rather than from a united front of individual tournament sponsors and officials. That it has taken so long for someone to call for Bivens’ resignation is another surprise.



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6 thoughts on “LPGA Player Rebellion Roundup”

  1. “…a hitherto unknown Canadian Tournament…”

    Ouch! But, maybe unknown to those not paying attention? The tournament is well known in Canada. And was at one time, a major.

    I know, we aren’t part of the USA, but we do pack in a few weeks of summer for golf before we go back to the igloos and polar bears. smile

    Actually, a local girl, LPGA player Lorie Kane has been pouring her heart for several years into winning the event. Her parents Jack and Marilyn and sisters along with all of PEI are rooting for her. And for the LPGA.

  2. You’re right – the PGA has its own issues; it’s doing well (‘despite’ Tim Finchem), but a lot of that seems to be momentum.

    Nancy Lopez would be a good choice. The LPGA really needs somebody who can build both fan and sponsor bases from the ground up.

  3. None taken. I was trying to lightheartedly poke. It is hard to do properly on the internet!

    But to be honest, our winters are still tougher then yours. And when the Western Hockey League Spokane hires a goalie coach in July, it is headline sports news up here in Canada.

    Back on topic: The PGA will be fine after Tiger. It is the media I think will suffer from withdrawal. When the media are accountable to the game rather then an individual, I think they will have to start doing their homework. Golf fans will always be here. Tiger fans will just move on to the next big sports personality.

  4. Good question with regards to the PGA Tour and Tiger. Maybe the Tour will glom onto Anthony Kim or that Rory fellow.

    You’re right about Tiger hanging up his cleats. One, perhaps two more seasons – as a Tour player.  I think he’ll still do the appearance-money circuit and maybe his own tournament.


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