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LPGA "4th Major" issue to be decided soon

Commissioner Ty Votaw denied today that he turned down an offer to keep the LPGA's fourth major championship in Canada, saying the proposal was not even strong enough to stage a regular tour event.

The du Maurier Classic, a major championship since 1979, will be played for the last time next week because of legislation that bans tobacco companies from sponsoring sports and cultural events.

Jean-Paul Blais, a former du Maurier president, has been trying to find a new title sponsor since January. Votaw said that a replacement has not yet been found.

The Toronto Star reported that the LPGA turned down an offer to keep the event alive by covering prize amounts for five years.

"I would not characterize it as anything close to a proposal," Votaw said in a conference call with reporters. "What he set forth is nowhere near what would be necessary to go forward with a major, let along an LPGA event in Canada.''

Votaw said any new title sponsor would to commit to about $5 million a year.

"There are not that many companies that can fund a $7 million (Canadian) commitment,'' he said. "The economics simply don't mirror the number of companies in the U.S. that can do that.''

Votaw said he and Blais would continue looking for a new sponsor in Canada, but the window of opportunity is closing fast.

By the end of next month, he said the LPGA would decide whether the fourth major will stay in Canada or move elsewhere. Another option would be for the LPGA to have only three majors until it can find a permanent replacement.

Du Maurier is a leading cigarette brand for Imperial Tobacco. The tobacco-ad legislation take effect in 2001, so this year marks the end of du Maurier's title sponsorship.

The du Maurier Classic, with a $1.2 million purse, is set for the Royal Ottawa Golf Club in Aylmer, Quebec. Karrie Webb, the defending champion, will try to become the first player in 14 years to win three majors in one season.

 

Juli Inkster could be celebrating a Major in the UK in 2001. Allsport.

Votaw said LPGA tournaments require a letter of credit to guarantee the purse. But a major championship requires more to ensure stability.

"We don't want to face this issue in a couple of three years from now,'' he said.

If a new sponsor cannot be found, the LPGA would look for another major. Tournaments said to have interest are the Big Apple Classic, which was sponsored by Japan Airlines for this year for the final time, and the Rochester International. The most likely replacement would be the Women's British Open, sponsored by Weetabix.

The last time the LPGA had only three majors was in 1982, the year before the Dinah Shore -- now called the Nabisco Championship -- was added.

 

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