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Votaw outlines his plans for LPGA

GLENDALE, Calif. -- New LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw wasted little time at his new job, announcing a plan to beef up the tour's TV coverage and to tap into a global market.

Currently 33 of the 43 tournaments are televised, he said.

"Our focus will be on getting more of our tournaments on television, increasing the size of purses and expanding internationally, with more lucrative television packages from foreign nations such as Korea, Australia, and Sweden," Votaw said Thursday after taking the reins from Jim Ritts.

"Presently, there are only five or six domestic tournaments that are not on television, and we're trying to get all of those on some sort of TV, be it national network or cable."

Votaw's goal of more international exposure should be helped by the multinational makeup of the women's tour, which includes such stars as Se Ri Pak of Korea, Karrie Webb of Australia and Annika Sörenstam of Sweden.

"We're also striving to keep all the tournament fields strong and increase prize money," Votaw said. "We now have 11 events with at least $1 million in purses in 1999."

Votaw brings a wealth of experience in his new role, having worked for the LPGA since 1991. He was responsible for handling business transactions, including tournament sponsorships and television rights negotiations as vice president of business affairs.

"Becoming commissioner is a great honour," he said during an informal news conference at Oakmont Country Club, site of this weekend's Valley of the Stars Championship. "I have a great passion for the LPGA and the confidence the LPGA board of governors has demonstrated in selecting me is very gratifying."

Ritts, who has accepted the position of chief operating officer with Digital Entertainment Network, will remain with the LPGA for 40 days to ensure a smooth transition to the new commissioner.

"The LPGA has experienced great growth during my eight years with this organisation and we can do even better in the future", said Votaw, who celebrated his 37th birthday Thursday during the pro-am at Oakmont.

"It's a little overwhelming for me and my family, but I have received a great reception from the players and sponsors. We all thought Jim would stay on as commissioner for several more years."

Votaw noted that the LPGA's 50th anniversary is coming up in 2000.

"We need to pay homage to the women's golfers from the trailblazing era who have helped the LPGA become the world's most successful women's sports organisation," he said. "The reality is that 25 years before Bobby Riggs played Margaret Court (in tennis' first "Battle of the Sexes"), we had Babe Didrikson and Louise Suggs creating our organisation"