Sports Outside the Beltway

17-year old Kiran Matharu denied trip to LPGA Qualifying School


Carolyn Bivens, the new commissioner of the LPGA Tour, continues to generate controversy. Her most recent questionable action came when she denied a request by 17-year-old Kiran Matharu to attend the LPGA’s Q School, which starts on the 19th.

In her letter of denial, sent to Matharu via email on September 9th, Bivens wrote: “I do not believe your record in professional golf competitions demonstrates you can compete at the highest level of women’s professional golf at this time . . . I recommend you apply to qualify for the Duramed Futures Tour, ‘The Official Developmental Tour of the LPGA.’ “

Kiran Matharu Photo Of all the Q School applicants this year, Matharu might actually be among the most qualified, and perhaps as importantly, the one with the most world-wide potential. She’s the reigning Ladies English Amateur champion, was a member of Great Britain and Ireland’s Curtis Cup team that competed last month at Bandon Dunes, and placed 15th in her first professional event. In addition, the young Englishwoman is a two-time Faldo Series Girls champion.

Yorkshire-born Matharu started golf at the age of 11 and has been an outstanding player ever since. She’s the only British Asian female golfer, has an engaging personality and been named twice as Leeds Sports Performer of the Year – in 2003 and 2004. Earlier this year she was named “Female Junior Sports Personality of the Year” at the Sony Entertainment Television Sports Personality of the Year awards for British Asians.

Of Matharu’s future, Nick Faldo said, “I’ve worked with Kiran for nearly three years now and in that time she has certainly proved that she has the potential to succeed on the big stage. Kiran combines a great game with a steady nerve and I’m confident that, with a little more experience, she will be in a position to challenge for the very highest honors that the ladies game has to offer.”

After the Curtis Cup, Matharu turned professional with a plus-4 handicap, the lowest of any female golfer in the UK. She made the cut and finished 15th in The Wales Ladies Championship, her first professional tournament.

I don’t know what else Ms. Matharu has to prove that she is ready to play professionally. What is the difference between Matharu and Morgan Pressel who one year ago at age 17 applied to qualify for the tour? Both players were reigning amateur champs. That’s the argument a lawyer should make if Matharu were to legally challenge Bivens decision. The LPGA would have a tough and costly time defending it. To me Commissioner Bivens decision is both arbitrary and wrong.

Then Bivens has been making a series of blunders over the last few months.

Biven’s had a rocky time during her brief commissionership, which began a year ago this month. Here’s a list of some of her more controversial moves:

Requiring tournaments to pay for the electronic scoreboards that dot courses (currently, the Tour splits those costs – about $30,000 each – with the sites);

Dropping the popular LPGA-ShopRite Classic on the Jersey Shore for a more lucrative event (the ShopRite has generated $12 million in charitable donations, with more than $1.8 million going to charity last year – the highest of any LPGA event);

Creating chilly relations with many of the media that cover the LPGA, including Dottie Pepper, an early supporter;

Imposing a sanction fee of $500,000 on new tournaments that want to be added to the LPGA’s schedule;

Threatening to drop existing tournament sponsors, including McDonalds, a generous LPGA backer for 26 years, the last 13 as sponsor of the LPGA Championship, the Tour’s flagship event.

Even the LPGA’s unquestioned star player, Annika Sorenstam, has expressed dissatisfaction with the way the Tour’s new leader has performed. “I am quite concerned about some of the decisions and changes I have seen lately,” commented the usually stoic Swede. “I just wonder where we are headed.”

I’m with Annika. The above decisions by Bivens and some others show her complete incompetence at running a ladies’ professional golf tour. The LPGA needs to dump Bivens before she runs the tour into the ground.

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I completely agree. I’ve been talking to quite a number of LPGA players and some of the agents that work with them. There are huge disappointments and worries among the rank and file.
What Annika has said “diplomatically”, others have phrased much more harshly.
It will take 3-4 tournament sponsors to get together and force the LPGA board to drop her.

Posted by George Frost | September 24, 2006 | 01:27 pm | Permalink

I competely disagree. The LPGA has been defined by poor management until Ty Votaw came around, and his role was to make peace and prop-up the organization into stability.

Carolyn was hired to bring change, and that just does not occurr without people getting angry. The tourney ops were doing just fine, the TV guys were doing just fine, and the top players were doing just fine. The problem was the remainder of the field, most of the LPGA players continued to be without the most fundamental health and retirement benefits that the other professional leagues provide.

She has stated over and over again that the quality of the product does not match the rights fees paid by the tourneys and the TV packagers. Once a new tourney sched is assembled, and a new TV package including international and InternetTV is put in place, these players will realize that this change was the best thing that ever happened to this tour.

Posted by JONinFLA | September 27, 2006 | 11:00 am | Permalink

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