Future prospects for
LPGA looking good
Ty Votaw didnt have to look far for a reason to smile Tuesday. The sun
was shining and the sky was blue, but inside the Conference Center at Kingsmill,
the LPGA commissioners brightest stars were already out.
A trading-card company was introducing a new line of cards featuring high-profile
An hour before, Annika Sorenstam, winner of 13 tournaments in 2002, offered
a charming slice of herself as she prepares to take on the mens tour at
the Colonial in Fort Worth starting May 19.
Nearby was the 18th green of the River Course. Thats where this weeks
winner of the inaugural $1.6 million Michelob Light Open the largest purse
for a first-time event receives a check for $240,000.
Votaw has a five-year plan called Fans First. The goal: increase attendance
at LPGA events by 15 percent and TV viewers by 10 percent.
So far, so good. After one year, LPGA attendance rose 12 percent. Television audiences
grew by 20 percent.
Those results bode well for our organization and our players, Votaw
says. About halfway through the LPGAs 50th anniversary celebration in 2000,
Votaw realized the organization was doing more than enough to honor its past.
It was time to work on the future.
Over the next 18 months, the LPGA interviewed about 1,000 people. The tour
sought advice from 150 movers and shakers. The question: Had the LPGA reached
its full potential? The answers formed the basis of a five-year plan that Votaw
unveiled to 178 players in March, 2002.
Women golfers had to connect with the public. They had to be entertainers.
They had to be relevant, involved in the issues of the day. They had to let the
outside world see them living lives to which it could relate.
Votaw asked his membership to buy into what he called the Five Points
Performance, relevance, passion and joy, appearance and approachability
Votaw rattles them off like a telephone number. Some are obvious. Play
with more emotion. Make yourself more available to the public. Votaw called it
the circle of life.
The largest emphasis is on performance. At the seminar, an ex-Fortune 500 CEO
who was a NASCAR sponsor explained why racing was so popular. NASCAR prides itself
that the top drivers face each other week after week.
Votaw favors the LPGAs longer offseason. The season ends the third week
of November and resumes on a regular basis in March. The fewer the tournaments,
the better the fields, the larger the crowds, the happier the sponsor, the happier
Votaw also introduced a rule long called for by critics: LPGA members must
play in every tournament on the schedule at least once every four years. The PGA
Tour has no such rule, which is why Tiger Woods got away with never playing at
Its been received fairly positively, said Votaw. The
first question I was asked was, 'Whats the penalty if I dont do that?
''I said, 'Rather than think about the penalty, think about what this can mean
for the organization, what it says to the sponsors who are paying the freight
for you folks to make a living.
Votaw said that guarantee is one reason half his sponsors increased their purses
this year. There are 27 events paying $1 million or more, compared with 12 just
four years ago. The average purse this year is $1.27 million. Total prize money
available on this years tour is $41 million, an increase of $2.255 million
Fans like seeing more good players competing for bigger purses. And they like
reading about them.
More people are clicking on the LPGA Web site, and theyre staying longer.
Hits at LPGA.com increased 51 percent from 2001 to '02.
Its a sign, Votaw said, that his players are becoming more relevant.
Whether its Val Skinners work with breast cancer, Kelly Kuehne,
Sherri Turner or Michelle McGanns work with diabetes, Annika Sorenstam being
a chef in the offseason fans need to find something relevant about players
on or off the course, Votaw said. Its Juli Inkster being a working
Critics and cynics charge that appearance is another way of saying
sex. Hall of Famer Kathy Whitworth said if the tour had to go back
to selling sex to become more popular, it would just shrivel up.
It didnt work before and it wont work now, she said.
Votaw said the media misinterpreted the concept as it applies to
When I talk about appearance, I talk not only about what clothes they
wear, but how they present themselves to the public and how professional they
are in their interaction. All of those things combine to make a player more attractive.
This years news archive | Email
this page to a friend | Return to top of page