GolfWeek reports that a revolt against LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens is in progress following a player meeting at last week’s Jamie Farr Classic in Toledo.
Among those at the meeting were the Tour’s best—and most popular players: Lorena Ochoa, Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Morgan Pressel, and Natalie Gulbis. Fox News in Toledo reports that they were among as many as fifteen signatories to a letter sent to the LPGA Board calling for Bivens’ ouster.
The meeting in Toledo at the Jamie Farr was significant, because the twenty five year old tournament does not have a contract for next year. Rumors were rampant at the tournament that this would be the last year for the event. This follows on the cancellation of the longstanding (31 years), and popular Corning Classic in New York.
Under Bivens’ watch, the LPGA has lost seven tournaments since 2007. And it seems as though there are only TEN tournaments signed for next year. The Wegman’s in Rochester and Michelob Ultra tournament in Virginia also are in doubt.
Tensions “are mounting more every week,” Australian LPGA player Katherine Hull said. “We’re getting to the point where we don’t know who to believe, which is hard. “When tournaments that have been very loyal to us start withdrawing, that’s really a red flag to me.”
It would be easy to blame it on the economy, but Bivens has been ham-handed since her arrival. Within weeks of taking over the Tour, she managed to offend the golf print media over photography rights—resulting in a boycott of LPGA events. She’s battled with newspapers over press credentials. Bivens also locked out bloggers from covering LPGA events. Without “old” and “new” media support, Bivens was playing from the beginning with a weak hand.
Throughout Bivens tenure, there have been reports of her inability to forge relationships with tournament sponsors and organizers. She shoved Shoprite out of its longtime spot in favor of Ginns to satisfy the latter’s desire to be part of the season ending ADT Championship series. Shoprite left; then Ginns bailed as the real estate market tanked.
The Wendy’s Championship in Columbus pulled out after its date was given to the Safeway Classic.
Bivens offended Seoul Broadcasting Systems—a longtime sponsor—by signing a television deal with a rival network. That resulted in the loss of the last LPGA stop in Hawaii.
The LPGA Championship—a MAJOR—not only lost McDonald’s as its sponsor, it doesn’t even have a home for 2010. How the heck does that happen? Leaving old friend Bulle Rock doesn’t seem so smart right now.
Her treatment of longtime LGPA Tournaments friends reminds me of some advice my mother gave me: You don’t abandon your old friends for new ones. The new ones may be attractive, but you don’t know just how reliable they are.
Bivens also has made it tougher for smaller tournaments to stay in the game. imposed a sanction fee of $500,000 on new tournaments, and required all tournaments to pay for electronic scoreboards—an expense which previously had been shared. At the Jamie Farr in Toledo this past week, organizers reportedly cut expenses to the bone. Courtesy cars apparently were cut; gift packages for pro-am sponsors were reduced.
Some weeks ago, GolfWeek quoted Wegmans’ organizer Linda Hamption:
Hampton said Wegmans desires to enter a multiple-year deal with the LPGA, but only if tournament organizers can continue to raise money for charity and produce a quality event with a substantial purse. That can’t be done if LPGA expenses are unreasonably high, they say.
“We have respect for (Bivens’) vision,” Hampton said. “What we have difficulty in is keeping pace with her vision, especially in this economy.”
Of course, when the LPGA increases the expenses to tournaments, it’s the local charities that suffer. More money to the LPGA means less money for Children’s Hospitals, and so on.
Relationships with players—current and future—also have looked rocky. Remember the whole “Speak English Or Else!” fiasco? Or how about the seemingly random enforcement of age limits on Tour. Kiran Matharu, an accomplished 17 year old British golfer, was denied a chance to try for Q School, but 17 year old Morgan Pressel was waived through. Staff relationships have been little different. Her arrival resulted almost immediately in the loss of key senior staff.
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.
Perhaps the players can get Ty Votaw to take his old job back, at least on an interim basis.