Sports Outside the Beltway

Let me repeat myself- LPGA Tour Commisioner Carolyn Bivens has to go

In only a few days two women’s professional golf tournaments in the USA have bit the dust. First, The Fields Open.

The Fields Corporation, title sponsor of the Fields Open in Hawaii, has announced it will not renew its title sponsorship for the LPGA tournament for 2009, leaving an early-season hole on the tour’s schedule for next year.

Fields officials said the Japanese entertainment company will concentrate its future marketing efforts primarily in Japan.


“I hate to see our tournaments go,” veteran player Juli Inkster told Golfweek. “What’s going on with the economy, it’s tough. We’re just going to have to fight through it.”

Inkster, a member of the LPGA Player Executive Committee, said although the tour is worldwide, it’s still primarily American-based and needs more strong events in this country.

“I think our No. 1 objective is to get more U.S. tournaments (with) full fields,” Inkster said.

Ryan at GNN writes- “That seems to fly in the face of international expansion of the LPGA Tour.” That’s true, the LPGA appears to be pay little attention to shoring up its US based schedule. I have no problems with the LPGA playing events around the world, but understand where those tour players are coming from, when they say the increasing amount field of limited events isn’t necessarily a good thing.

If one plumetting sandbag aimed at Carolyn Bivens head wasn’t enough, then this news broke on Friday.

The organizers of the LPGA’s Ginn Tribute hosted by Annika Sorenstam announced Friday they couldn’t obtain the sponsorships needed to keep the tournament through 2010.

Ginn Companies chairman Bobby Ginn blamed a faltering economy and less corporate funds for the demise of the tournament at RiverTowne Country Club.

“The golf tournament business is primarily fueled by economic support,” Ginn said in a statement. “We did everything in our power to generate the sponsorship necessary to continue with the Ginn Tribute, but given the current market and corresponding cuts in corporate spending, it was an uphill battle.”

The Ginn Tribute’s demise was written about in this post almost two weeks ago. There were even rumors that Ginn tried to pull out of the 2008 event. I wonder how Seon Hwa Lee feels at this moment. Her first three tour victories coming in tournaments that went belly up immediately afterwards.

One of those wins was the Shoprite Classic. Let me remind my readers, why that tournament is not on the LPGA schedule anymore.

There is more turbulence on the LPGA Tour between its administration and tournament sponsors. This week’s dilemma: Will a new sponsor with deep pockets double its presence on the tour? Will the rookie commissioner turn her back on an event that has been loyal to women’s golf for 21 years and give its spot on the schedule to the rich new kid on the block? And will the spurned event strike back by taking legal action against the LPGA, further complicating what has already been an awkward transition in leadership? The answers, mostly, are “yes.”

According to sources familiar with the situation, the LPGA will announce next week a new event in South Carolina and sponsored by Ginn Clubs & Resorts, which debuted as a sponsor this year with a $2.5 million stop in Orlando. That’s the good news. The problem is the date discussed with the new tournament is the week before the McDonald’s LPGA Championship–a spot currently occupied by the ShopRite LPGA Classic, won this year by Seon Hwa Lee. Larry Harrison, general chairman of the Atlantic City event since its inception in 1986, says he’ll sue if his date is given away.

No lawsuit was filed. Carolyn Bivens gave the Ginn Tribute the Shoprite’s dates on the LPGA tournament schedule, and not long afterward that particular sponsor ended its association with the LPGA.

Now the Ginn Tribute is dead in addition to the Shoprite. I was highly critical of this maneuver by Bivens when it took place.

This is suicidal for a tour with money problems, decaying tournament scheduling and sponsor retention problems.

I don’t hit the bullseye too often but was I ever right about the Shoprite fiasco.

With the Ginn Tribute gone plus the Shoprite, LPGA players would be more than justified to begin calling for Carolyn Bivens head because of the outright managerial incompetence she has more than shown herself able to do. What I said two years ago, still applies today.

Carolyn Bivens has to go or the LPGA is sunk.

Further posts about Ms. Bivens blunders can be read here and here.

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