From Golf World-
The ShopRite Classic, a fixture on the LPGA schedule for 21 years, has ended its ties with the tour in a dispute over when the tournament would be played. In a strongly worded statement released Wednesday that never mentioned LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens by name, tournament chairman Larry Harrison accused the tour of ignoring a commitment ShopRite Classic organizers say they had from previous tour leadership guaranteeing its date through 2008. The decision apparently ends an event that was one of the most popular among players because of its proximity to the Jersey Shore and the casinos of Atlantic City.
The standoff turned nasty in July when the tour slotted a new tournament in South Carolina — the Ginn Tribute — for June 1-3, one week before the McDonald’s LPGA Championship for 2007. Harrison says that week was promised to him. The tour disputes that claim and offered several other dates, none of which were acceptable to the ShopRite organizers. Last month, the LPGA discussed the 2007 schedule at a players’ meeting at the Long Drugs Challenge. On that draft schedule was an event listed only as “Atlantic City” slated for Labor Day weekend.
“In effect, there has been no true negotiation with the Tour, and no direct communication with the Tour commissioner or her staff throughout this process,” Harrison said in his statement. “Rather, the tour, through its outside legal counsel, has simply offered a few undesirable and/or unworkable dates, of which only one was even remotely acceptable.”
In a tersely worded statement Wednesday night, the LPGA challenged the accuracy of Harrison’s version of events and hinted at legal action. “Harrison’s statement is full of falsehoods and incorrect accounts,” the LPGA statement said. “We’ve directed our legal counsel to contact Mr. Harrison’s attorney and have him rescind the statement.”
“We went up against the men’s Open once before and it was a total disaster,” he said. “No gallery, no press.” July 4th weekend on the Jersey shore would be impossible because of the lack of reasonable hotel room rates for the players and the lack of availability of casinos for the two parties during the event. “And what kind of field would I get if we were between stops in California and Mexico?” Harrison asked.
The ShopRite Clasic is the second LPGA event to break its ties with the tour in a dispute over scheduling dates. The Wendy’s Championship for Children near Columbus, Ohio, an event since 1999, pulled out when its late-August date was given to the Safeway Classic in Portland, Ore. The tour has also lost stops in Atlanta and Las Vegas this year, while adding the South Carolina event as well as stops in Alabama, Arkansas and Thailand.
“Putting together a schedule is like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube, when you think you have one side solved you turn it over and see that another piece is out of place,” LPGA chief operating officer Chris Higgs told Golf World when Wendy’s left the tour. “We have to consider what’s best for the tour overall and those decisions are not always going to make everyone happy. We don’t want to lose events, but we do need a certain level of cooperation.”
This is an utter fiasco but I wasn’t surprised by this news. It is just the latest in a long series of incidents involving tournament sponsors and LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens since she took over running the tour in 2005. The LPGA players need to see to Ms Bivens firing and soon. If not, there may not be a US Ladies pro golf tour in 5 or 10 years.
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