For some time now golf columnists, critics, bloggers and forum trolls have been calling for the ouster of first year LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens. Beginning the year with a spat over photo rights, which resulted in Golf Week not covering the LPGA at all for some time and following through to the resignation of senior LPGA staffers, Bivens has had a rough year.
And yet, your friendly neighborhood Golf Blogger was taking a wait-and-see approach. Having been through more than a few management changes in my time, I know that beginnings sometimes are rocky.
Bivens latest escapade, however, has me wondering if she will survive the year. Or if she even has a clue.
The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that
Bivens abruptly canceled her address at the annual Tournament Owners Association meetings – reportedly because of the presence of two former LPGA staffers at a TOA dinner one night earlier. A tour statement alleged that TOA leadership “has continued to demonstrate a lack of interest in building the trust that leads to a mutually beneficial partnership.’’ Tournament officials, though, argue that “trust’’ has become a one-way street under Bivens.
And Ron Sirak of Golf World reported that
Sources say Bivens found it “disrespectful” that Deb Richard (a Bivens-hired LPGA executive who quit, saying she lost faith in leadership) was allowed to keep her seat on the TOA board.
The Tournament Owners Association is angry with Bivens because the LPGA apparently is demanding a $100,000 a year sanctioning fee. That’s $100,000 for the privilege of having an official LPGA tournament. As Ron Sirak reports in Golf World, that kind of money may be out of reach for some of the smaller tournaments:
TOA members say $100,000 is high within their economic realities. The Fields Open donated $83,000 to charity this year. “Add the $134,000 Bivens wants and Fields has a deficit of $51,000, with nothing to charity,” a source said. That deficit barely measures the credibility gap existing between the tour and the tournaments. And it offers no clue as to how that gap will be bridged.
Another bone of contention is that Bivens apparently has given a new tournament, the Ginns, the same date that previously was promised to the Shoprite. Shoprite officials say they have a promise for that date in writing and are threatening legal action.
In case no one has told Bivens, I’ll state the obvious. The LPGA doesn’t exist without its tournaments. You really don’t want to tick these people off. If the LPGA were to close its doors tomorrow, the tournaments still would be able to get the top players for their events (the prize money will take care of that). On the other hand, the LPGA will be much poorer if they find a shortage of tournaments due to mishandling.
But maybe that’s what she’s worried about. The PGA Tour provides its tournaments with as much as 65% of the purse—and much of the operating costs— through its television revenues. That puts the Tour firmly in charge of events. But the LPGA can’t do that becuase it’s relegated to selling its own ad time and renting network time by the hour.
Bivens doesn’t have control over her tournaments the way the boys do over theirs. So the only thing I can figure is that Bivens is working off the Joe Stalin model, and is consolidating her power. She can kill off some of the Old Guard by raising the fees. This makes room on the schedule for her new hand-picked generals—sorry—tournament owners. The new tournament owners will be beholden to her, and thus she will contol the politbureau as well as the Red Army—excuse me—the Tournament Owners Association as well as the LPGA.
Bivens has said that she is determined to impose a new business model for the LPGA. My question is whether she will get the chance to follow through on her five year plan, or if the LPGA Board of Directors will send her packing to golf’s version of Siberia.