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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Michael Whan Is Still Making Plans

On Monday Morning Drive did a phone interview with LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan, who's in China for the inaugural Blue Bay LPGA event. (You can get a preview of it here at Tony Jesselli's blog.) Whan talked at length about the plans he still has on the table for the LPGA. I've embedded the video of the call below (here's the link in case you don't see it) but I'll sum up the basics of what he said.

In addition to talking about the new Blue Bay event, Whan announced a new sponsor for the International Crown event -- UL, a large company headquartered in Chicago IL -- and that the 2018 event will be held in South Korea. (The 2016 event will be in Chicago again, but Whan said that was because he wanted more control over the first two events while they worked out the bugs.) But that's only the beginning of what he talked about.

Although we've known for a while that the LPGA will begin the 2015 season in Florida at the new Coates Golf Championship, we didn't know for sure exactly how many more events Whan hoped to create. He told us on Monday -- maybe one more. Here's his logic:
  • Unlike the PGA Tour, he tries to schedule events to have a week off after every three or four tournaments.
  • He wants to avoid conflicts with the men's majors.
  • And also unlike the PGA Tour, he wants roughly a two-month off-season because he believes that's important for the ladies.
When you do the math, that results in about 33 or 34 events per year. The new Coates event will be #33, so he figures on adding just one more.

Beyond that, he has three goals in mind:
  1. Something still has to be done about the long-term health of the Kraft-Nabisco Championship. Just as the LPGA Championship has been morphed into the Women's PGA Championship, Whan wants to establish the KNC so it will continue uninterrupted for a number of decades.
  2. He'd like to see a pro-am event on the LPGA, something like the AT&T on the PGA Tour. Given how much the LPGA works with their sponsors, that's almost a no-brainer.
  3. And since the LPGA no longer has a yearly match play event, he'd like to get a new one on the schedule.
Given that Whan says there's only one slot left open on the LPGA schedule, clearly at least one of the existing tournaments will have to be changed to create the match play or pro-am event. That's something we'll have to watch for.

All-in-all, it appears that the LPGA is in even better shape than we thought.

You know, I remember when Michael Whan's "crazy ideas" drew criticism for being too impractical. His critics should be very glad that he doesn't hold a grudge.