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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

About the New LPGA Event

RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup logo

We finally get to see some more LPGA action this week. The inaugural RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup -- the notorious "no purse" event that has been the center of much conjecture and controversy -- will debut at the Wildfire Golf Club, which is at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa in Phoenix, Arizona.

Although 134 players are expected to play, a lot of the big names won't be there. The only Top 10 players listed in the final field list are #1 Yani Tseng, #2 Jiyai Shin, #5 Cristie Kerr, and #10 Karrie Webb. The other players in the Top 10 stand to lose some serious ground this week, especially #3 Na Yeon Choi and #4 Suzann Pettersen. Kerr's points are at 9.09, Pettersen's at 9.15, and Choi's at 9.18, so Kerr stands to make a big move up to 3rd this week. (And since Shin is only at 9.58 -- half a point above Kerr -- she'll need to play well to hold her place at #2.) Webb could also move up this week, to #8 or even #7 with a good finish.

In fact, with so many of the Top 10 laying out this week (indeed, many of the Top 20 aren't playing), the stage is set for some serious movement up the rankings by players with 2-, 3-, and 4-point averages.

Rookie Sara Brown makes her first LPGA start here, as does newly-married rookie and fellow Big Breaker Gerina Mendoza Piller. (She's married to PGA Tour rookie Martin Piller.) Of course, she's listed as Gerina Piller on her bio page but Gerina Mendoza on the final field list. Is it any wonder people get confused? A third Big Breaker and rookie, Ryann O'Toole, is 2nd alternate.

Here's the full field listing, just in case you want to see if your favorite players will be in action.

One last thing: In case you wonder who the founders are that this event is supposed to honor, the LPGA is listing 13 of them. They are:
  1. Alice Bauer
  2. Patty Berg
  3. Bettye Danoff
  4. Opal Hill
  5. Helen Dettweiler
  6. Marlene Bauer Hagge
  7. Helen Hicks
  8. Betty Jameson
  9. Sally Sessions
  10. Marilynn Smith
  11. Shirley Spork
  12. Louise Suggs
  13. Babe Zaharias
I have to admit I don't recognize several of these names, although I thought I was fairly knowledgeable about the LPGA's beginnings. Michael Whan has a short video about them and the concept behind the Founders Cup here.

You can also read the LPGA's full tournament preview on this page.


  1. This tournament is a mess from top to bottom. It seems like a good idea - but Whan ran with the ball before checking with the players to see if they would be interested.

    Fake purse, no tax benefit (players don't get the donation to charity - the sponsor does) - and now a field of 134 ?? The LPGA plays in threesomes - 134 divided by 3 is 44.6. Foursomes ? 33.5.

    I'm glad the women have a tournament to play in this week - but outside of that, this is bad from top to bottom - no matter how cutesy a byline the marketing people have come up with.

    The next bad idea ? The "Titleholders" at the end of the season - seems like a good idea, until you realize that they are inviting the 2nd and 3rd place finishers into the field. Do the 2nd and 3rd place finishers get a title now ?

    Play well, ladies - sorry the commish screwed the pooch on this one.

  2. I understand your point about the players not getting the tax benefit of the charitable donations... but that corporate tax break may have been the dealmaker to get this tournament done.

    With so many sports competing for a limited number of sponsors -- and let's face it, the LPGA isn't considered one of the elite sports groups -- Whan is just doing what he can to make sure the LPGA keeps going. No offense to Bivens, but her unwillingness to adapt her goals to the changing economic picture put the LPGA in a tough spot by damaging relations with existing sponsors. It's much easier to keep old sponsors than to get them back once they're lost. And finding new ones is even tougher.

    Given the LPGA's economic situation right now, I think it's hard to be too critical. Granted, this isn't something that could be done for more than one tournament... but it's a tournament they wouldn't have had otherwise. Whan knows a tour without tournaments won't attract many sponsors or fans, so he's doing what he can to make sure the tour survives. True, he's making some radical moves in the attempt. But in the end, I think sponsors will see the LPGA as a business that survives and is thus a good gamble.

    Think of it as the Ford effect. When Ford turned down the government bailout, many people wrote them off. They were seen as a manufacturing dinosaur that didn't care about their product. Now they're viewed as an American success story and have gained both public support and a whole new reputation for excellence. Americans love to back an underdog who succeeds, and that's what I think Whan is counting on.

  3. I'm hoping to get out to this tournament for at least one day. I've played the Faldo course before. So nice! As long as Natalie is there, I'm happy. Don't tell my fiancee;-)

  4. Court.... I agree with RM because these are difficult times for the LPGA tour. I like a commissioner that thinks "outside the box". Sure he made a mistake by not making sure his star players had his back, but to his credit he listened and rectified it. As far as the Titleholders is concerned your not only goung to ger 2nd and 3rd place finishers but 30th or 40th place finishers by the end of the season. We will have to see how that turns out. Strictly as a fan I am glad to have the tourneys on the schedule and not another bye week.

  5. Exactly, Tony. When we look at businesses in general right now, we see companies that have been around for a century failing simply because they can't figure out how to keep going in a tough economy.

    If Whan can figure out how to get a decent schedule in these tough times and still give sponsors some value despite the struggle, the LPGA will emerge from this with a reputation as a sound business that delivers when others can't. That will draw more sponsors, which will in turn attract more TV attention and more fans.

    In 10 years, we may be looking back at the Founders Cup and Titleholders tournaments and calling them brilliant moves.