LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan and Rolex Player of the Year Yani Tseng answer questions about the 2011 schedule.
DAVID HIGDON: Hi, it's David Higdon with the LPGA. Welcome everybody from all over the world; appreciate you taking the time. We are on two different coasts. I'm here in beautiful Rancho Mirage, California, with the defending champion of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, and the 2010 Rolex Player of the Year, Yani Tseng, Yani how are you?
YANI TSENG: Hello, everybody.
DAVID HIGDON: On the other coast, we have a couple of Mikes. Mike Scanlan, who you know works with me in communications with Mike Whan, our commissioner. Hello Mikes. I wanted to start with just a little bit of a recap of today here on the west coast. We appreciate those on the east coast and in Europe who have endured this time, but hopefully you'll appreciate that Yani had a wonderful day here in Rancho Mirage. She actually did some reading to some children as part of a book pals program that the Kraft Nabisco Championship supports, so she got to polish her reading skills. Then I was handed keys to the city of Rancho Mirage at the city council meeting just an hour or so ago. So what are you going to do to the city now that you own it for a couple of hours.
YANI TSENG: Oh, it was great fun reading the book to the children today. It was so cute. Like I said, when I was young, I wanted to be a school teacher, and now it's my first time for that experience to come true. I enjoyed it; and reading the book, it's called Considerate Golf, just teaching golf, and how you need to be polite for the golf. It was just so much fun. I hope I can do it again. I really enjoy it here.
DAVID HIGDON: The defending champion here at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. They're going to celebrate their 40th year, and part of what Mike Whan's going to be talking about is the great history of the LPGA and how we're going to celebrate it in 2011. You clearly got your start here in the United States. Tell us a little bit about what we are going to do in 2011 with the RR Donnelley Founders Cup and what you think about that concept of basically foregoing a prize to give money to support a cause of the LPGA‑USGA Girls Golf.
YANI TSENG: I'm very happy to hear we're having that tournament. I think it's really fun to make this possible, and then living the dream. I would like to give back to the Kids Junior Golf, to give them everything we can. Like when I was young I looked at Annika playing golf, and when she helped me getting better, and I would like to help all the kids. I like to help them become better and better. I'm honored just being part of the LPGA family.
DAVID HIGDON: Why don't we kick it over to the other coast and our commissioner, Mr. Whan.
COMMISSIONER WHAN: We just had a chance to go public with our 2011 TOUR schedule. Hopefully, you've gotten a chance to see that as well. I'm excited about the schedule because I think it reflects a lot of the pillars or the outlines of what we're all about at the LPGA, global responsibility and partnership.
I find a lot of times when I use the term global everybody thinks I mean abroad. But what I mean by global is we're worldwide. Let's face it, we have players from around the world, generate fans from around the world, and we have sponsors from around the world. It is a pretty great time in women's golf.
No matter where you live, and when you're growing up, you have a chance to make it on the world stage and become a role model for women worldwide. It's a commitment our players make. I'm impressed by them and for them that we not only show up on TV worldwide, but we show up in person.
As my father used to say, you can't be a global customer with an e‑mail. So I'm glad that we take our tour not only around the U.S., but around the world. It's an exciting time. If you think about the '11 schedule, I hope you see some of things I do which is a really perfect blend of people that have been with us for a long, long time. And quite frankly have more responsibility of making the LPGA what it is today than I ever have or ever will. Players like Kraft Nabisco, and Wegmans, and State Farm, and Sybase, and Shop Rite. These are players that have quite frankly put us on the map. It it's their back bone that we lean on every year.
I've been a big freak of the word partnership. I know a lot of you people are rolling your eyes when you hear Mike Whan use the term partnership. But I believe when you can focus on the term partnership and get away from the term sponsorship, a lot of good things follow.
Some of the things you'll see in the ‘11 season, things like an end of the year (tournament) called Titleholders as opposed to a Tour Championship. Some of you may see that as a simple format change. I see it as a philosophy change. The philosophy if you're a title sponsor or business partner of the LPGA, I want to talk about you all year. I want your tournament to make a difference all year long. I want our end of the year celebration to have you as a title business partner to be part of it.
So every week three more women will be part of the count do you want to the Titleholders. If you're a top three finisher in our tournaments, you'll be sent to the Titleholders. At the end of the year, it will be the biggest check on tour. All of the players will have caddy bibs and represent the tournaments that sent them. We'll have 25 different trophies that line the ropes between the putting range and the first tee, so when our players walk to the first tee, they'll really walk through the people that put the LPGA on the map.
Then I use the term responsibility a lot. Yani knows that I use the term a lot. I use the term think like a founder at the end of every players meeting. I always say think like a founder, because founders left the game better than they found it.
One thing that becomes clear when you become a commissioner of the LPGA is you realize this isn't some business that you build and grow and sell or give to your kids. This is a couple of laps around the track with the baton. I've been handed the baton, and so has Yani and a lot of other great athletes. We don't know how long we get to be part of the LPGA. But we only have one real goal if you're part of the LPGA, and that is to leave the game better than you found it.
With this new tournament, the RR Donnelley Founders Cup, it's a chance to not only celebrate the women that have put us on the map from 50, to 60 to 40 years ago, you'll see us talking to and about a lot of the true pioneers of the women's game. But most importantly, not just look back, it gives us a huge chance to pay it forward. So we'll be putting significant amounts of money into the USGA/LPGA girl's golf. In the first year I hope to double the size of that charity that's been around quite a while. Next year I hope to triple it, and by 2015, '14, we'll be quadrupling the size of girl's golf.
That is a unique opportunity when the best players on the planet have an opportunity to not only play on the world's stage, but leave the game better than they found it.
So I hope you'll look at our schedule and realize all that's going on. We're playing around the world. Generating worldwide interest. You can see with the way the 2010 schedule came to an end, we really do, unlike most other golf (tours), and most other sports, we do put the best players on the planet on stage every week that we play.
If you wonder what the Olympics are going to feel like in 2016, all you have to do is come out and check out an LPGA event because we're going to put on an Olympic event right before your eyes. It's an exciting time for women’s golf, and I'm lucky more than anything else just to be a part of it.
The people at the LPGA, I had a chance to forward them a voice mail. I sent the letter by FedEx last night to the four living founders and the family members of the other 13 founders explaining that this event they've heard me talk about is now a reality. We'd like them to come to it, be part of it with us and celebrate the heritage in paying it forward.
I got a voice mail from Marilynn Smith; and in the voice mail her thanking us for making this such an important priority. She broke down and cried so much she couldn't finish her voicemail and apologized; and I sent that voice mail to every member of the LPGA. Said if you're wondering if we're doing the right thing, listen to somebody 60 years ago who made it better.
Shirley Spork called me when I was driving to the Golf Channel and asked if she could play in the Pro‑Am with me. So I think we're on to something. I hope 25, 35, 45 years from now people are talking I wonder how they got this thing started, but how great is it that these girls play one time a year for a true pay it forward. Not sure, David, that was the question you threw to me, but that's how I feel about 2011.
DAVID HIGDON: Thanks, Mike. That's great. Appreciate the time. Questions for Yani and Mike.
Q. I noticed with this schedule, you eliminated a lot of the long breaks that were at issue last year. Was that a priority for the tour in putting the 2011 schedule together?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: It was. I won't lie to you. There are still some long breaks that I want to see go away in '12, '13, and '14, maybe that's just type‑A personality. But there is more work to be done and that's why I'm excited. One of the things I found in looking at the history of the LPGA, a lot of the best players in the world tended to play two, three, four times in a row and take a week break. Our schedule is built around these consistent two or three week in a row windows. We start off in Thailand, Singapore and take a break. We go Founders Cup, Kia Classic, Kraft Nabisco Championship and take a break.
It's built on the ability to provide the opportunity for the best players in the world to be on display every time we tee it up, but I appreciate you pointing it out. We've still got a lot of holes to fill. And I'm not going to be ‑‑ I'm not going to be done until I know there is just no more room to cram in the best players in the world.
But I'm excited to say we're playing more than we played last year. We're playing for more money than we played for last year. We're playing in more locations than we're playing for last year. I don't think I'd be letting the cat out of the bag to say there are three tournaments that are in term sheet form right now for 2012, all three domestic U.S. events. So I feel great about where we're headed.
Q. How important is it to have a certain number of domestic U.S. events? You are a global tour, but does the focus or greater percentage of events have to be on U.S. soil?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: I think my comment on global is always this: We are a lot like a lot of the business partners that sponsor us. If you get them talking, a lot of times they'll say, Mike, in the last 10 or 15 years, we used to have all of our business in America and not a lot overseas. Now we have a lot overseas and a little bit in America.
We want to make sure we retain our U.S. roots while we succeed worldwide, and I always say ditto. You know what, we're a U.S. based company that's gone global. We want to maintain a solid U.S. base while we learn how to succeed and empower and inspire women around the world.
You are right. We need to keep a constant base. I was worried about that when I came in. Mostly because I got so many media questions about what do you think is the right mix and what number is in your head? I always said I didn't have a number in my head until everybody started asking me.
But I'm a lot less worried about it after a year on the job. Because I've seen the interest in domestic title sponsors that are pushing us to add events in the U.S., that I don't see at least any near or short term window, I don't see a risk of us becoming too global. We'll always have more than a sound base here in North America.
Q. Just a few days ago we knew about the memo that you sent to the players with the tentative 2011 schedule, and also with a note regarding the Tres Maria's chance in Morelia. You said in that memo that the tournament was in doubt because of the security in the seed of Morelia. However, the tournament director didn't agree with that. He said he felt the tournament was in doubt because of the lack of money and sponsorships. In some way it makes sense to me because last year people didn't respond well to the tournament even with Lorena there. So can you tell me what the real status of this tournament is, if it's confirmed or and why if it's not?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: Sure, it's a tournament that's contracted through '11 and '12. We get a monthly security report from all of our venues, not just internal, but in the U.S. as well from a security firm that we hire full‑time at the LPGA, and that security report starting in the fall of last year became concerning to us as it relates to Tres Maria because it's contracted over the next two years. And you're right, I think I told the women on tour at the Tour Championship in Orlando it was contracted. It's on the schedule. But we're going to have to watch that tournament because at this time we've been advised to probably not go to Morelia as we sit here today because of security concerns.
Unfortunately, some of the violence has made it that far, including some of the roads that we take from the airport to Tres Maria's and the hotel.
So it wouldn't surprise me at all to see that postponed for a while because it's not ‑‑ as I always say, I wouldn't send anybody anywhere I wouldn't send my daughter. And until we feel we have a better security read there ‑‑ but it's not a contract problem. That's a tournament that's contracted through 2012.
Q. So there's no problem right now with the organization regarding the sponsorships or money? I mean, there is a contract, so you have to wait to see what happens to the tournament?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: Right. We talked to Alberto two weeks ago, maybe a week ago about that tournament. We both agreed that from a security reason, we're not convinced sitting here today that it's a go. We might have to move that back in the schedule or postpone it. I'm sure that some of the security concerns about events have made it more difficult from a sponsorship perspective. But contractually, that one's on our schedule and will be again next year.
Q. I have to ask you, I know your players are generous and they love to give to charity. At the same time, they love to get paid. I can't imagine it was a unanimous thing saying, great, let's play for free. What was the reaction and how much persuasion was involved?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: You know, I knew you were going to do this without me asking because I know what kind of reporter you are. But you can ask all the players what their reaction was. You can see it whether or not the commissioner has given you some PR line. You may have heard this and Yani (Tseng) can certainly support this.
But I told the players about this for the first time at State Farm in Springfield. So back in June of 2010. We were at a player's meeting and I said I have an idea. I'll be the first to admit that I'm a rookie, and you can put an asterisk next to what Mike's ideas are worth.
But I have this idea. I know you hear me say ‘think like a founder’ a lot. But I think we can do something special if we all come together and do it. I'm sure there were plenty of members of my staff holding their breath as I presented the idea of Founders Cup 2011. At the time we hadn't thought of title sponsors or anything else. I took them through the entire presentation of why I thought this was the right thing to do. This was in the middle of 2010 too. So we are dealing with the economy and schedules and everything else.
The end of the presentation, there was no discussion. Everybody stood up and applauded. There was a standing ovation. It was a strange and exciting, just instant reaction.
When the girls stopped clapping, I said, do me a favor, before you sit down next year when it's the night before the Founders Cup and you're packing your bag. You're probably tired and you could use more time with your playing coach and you wondered what the heck did I agree to do? Remember why you're standing here tonight, because what you heard brought you to your feet. Let's do that once a week for the better of the game. I can tell you without any hesitation, I've received at least 50 e‑mails, from 50 different players on their suggestions on how to make the Founders Cup better.
In fact, some players that are pretty low on the priority list say ‘is there anyway I can get into that even if I don't qualify based on my status?’ But a lot of the ideas that we built into the RR Donnelley Founders Cup came from players feedback.
Think about it. You should know their rooms are free, their caddy rooms are free. They'll be provided a stipend so they can pay their caddy's and handle weekly fees. I don't want them to have to go into their pocket. But at the same time they are playing for no purse.
I think it's a neat combination. I'm going to take care of them the best I can that week because I'm proud of them and I want this to be something they talk about all season, about a smart thing they did and a good, exciting event.
At the same time, they're the best players on the planet. So when they tee it up and it becomes go time, I know it will be a competition. I have no doubt about that, in fact, I'm counting on it.
Q. A quick follow‑up. Just to be clear on that Tres Maria's, can you give us an idea what you need to know before you feel about the security there? What specifically concerns you?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: You'll be happy to know as will probably fathers and agents on tour, that it won't be Mike Whan making a security assessment. We're working with the tournament there, and Joe Funk and our security team that works with security down there and has made a trip down there already just to say whether or not this is a good idea.
And when we have it on the schedule right or wrong, we kind of feel like we've talked. We'll assess that at the end of each month. I've told the players, it's on the schedule. You can play it through '12. Do me a favor, the schedule is the schedule, you can book flights. But hold off on your flight to Morelia until we he know more.
Q. You mentioned that the winner's check (at Titleholders) will be the largest of any on tour next year. What is that amount going to be?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: $500,000 to the winner. Thank you, Orlando Sentinel, for supporting that with $500,000. I didn't mention that, did I? (joking)
Q. Is it definitive three players from every event, and if somebody's already qualified, you just keep going down the finish list until you find your three?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: You got it exactly right. My idea is that every tournament we're going to send three. So if in the fifth tournament of the year the person who is in second place is already qualified, you might have an interesting putt for fourth. Halfway through the season somebody putting for tenth will be a real nervous putt.
And trust me, players will know on a Sunday where they stand in terms of entering the Titleholders. We'll be advertising throughout the year who is in, and how many more times are left to play. We're even advertising on site.
It's an exciting concept, I think, because throughout the whole year we'll be building the field for the grand crescendo.
Q. Does that tournament still need a title sponsor? Or because you're celebrating all of the sponsors at this tournament, maybe it's a little different set‑up?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: The fact is, it doesn't require a title sponsor. We originally had been trying to do it without a title sponsor, and we will. I've had a few phone calls over the holiday to some of our schedule leaked out with some interesting titles, so now I'm thinking maybe I should.
But every tournament sponsor is financially supportive of the Titleholders, which is really cool. Everyone's in; everybody will be there and celebrating.
We've a couple of official partners that are not title sponsors, but putting significant funds into the title holders, which is great. It leaves it as the Titleholders. But I think that could go either way; doesn't need it.
But now that we've gone public with it, it may end up having a title, though it doesn't require it to be executed.
Q. Seems like it's certainly a different concept. You mentioned on Golf Channel that you kind of wrote down the name Titleholders from a conversation you had with Louise (Suggs), I believe it was. Did she also kind of give you any sort of idea how that was organized and run? Is that where the three manufacture player idea came up with?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: She told me about the Titleholders. To be honest with you, the venue of how they ran the Titleholders is completely different than what I used it for. It really wasn't so much about Titleholders as this event will be. I just thought the name was awesome.
It's kind of a funny story. If you do research on Titleholders, it was an event in Georgia. They were giving out green jackets before the men were giving out green jackets at the women's Titleholders in Augusta, and dates way, way back.
She used the term Titleholders a couple of times. I wrote it down on my cocktail napkin, and I said Titleholders, does that sound right. That sounds like a "remember who brought you here" kind of name. So that's been almost a year that we've been working on that idea ever since.
But no, it was not a format where they were represented by each tournament. It was just the name that stuck with me.
Q. Do you have a sense of how many women will be at the Founders tournament? And this is a crazy question, but it's coming from one of my editors, can they deduct from their taxes what they would have won at that tournament since it will be given to charity?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: Two things. At the tournament itself there will be 132 LPGA pros teeing it up. So it's a full‑field event, and we'll have a cut. Also we'll have the original founders and a lot of the Trailblazers for the last 60 years there. Some will play in the Pro‑Ams and be part of the parties.
It is a mock purse. What it means is it will move on the official money list, but they don't actually receive and/or transfer the funds, so no tax impact whatsoever.
Q. How do you see this as benefiting the schedule going forward? Are you trying to save a tournament in Phoenix? Is there any other goal besides honoring the founders, any other goal for having this event?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: It honors the founders. But the real goal to be honest with you is the LPGA and USGA have for a decade now been working together on a charitable effort called Girls Golf. And essentially, most of the biggest stake holders in golf, including the PGA TOUR, PGA of America, Augusta National, all make checks on an annual basis to the LPGA USGA Girls Golf, which is a charitable program to get girls involved in the game.
We have players on tour like Brittany Lincicome who started their career in Girl's Golf. But it also creates fans and grows the industry. It just creates role models.
As that program improves, girls that start golfing at a young age, even if they don't stay golfing, all of us on the call get it. This game teaches you lessons beyond what club you need to hit from 142 yards. And this whole idea of the Founders Cup is about generating money.
My goal to the group was I want this foundation and this program of Girl's Golf to be three times the size in two years. We started asking ourselves, how can we make it three times the size in two years? You do what most companies do. You say what are our best assets and what do we do well?
Our best assets are the best players on the planet. What do we do well? We put on a global event that raises money. So one time a year the beneficiary of that money will be on women to get going in the game.
It's a unique opportunity. For the LPGA, the brand itself and players for that matter, it's televised. It will be televised around the world. It's in a great facility. With regards to your question on Phoenix, Arizona, there is an awful lot of interest between Phoenix and Scottsdale on retaining a long‑term LPGA event.
If we end up putting one or two other events in Phoenix in 2012, the Founders Cup will move to a different location. If we don't, it doesn't have to.
I'll never have the Founders Cup compete with another event. We knew putting an event there, A, the crowds are always great in Arizona, and B, we know it will generate a lot of interest and sponsorship interest in watching the best in the world tee it up. So we felt it was the right place to get started.
Q. So the Founders Cup will be a permanent event on the calendar. It just may not be in the same place every year?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: That's right.
Q. Do you feel it will be a true competition or more like an exhibition, since technically there is not prize money, but I guess there are points to be won?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: Yeah, I think if there was just no purse and nothing else, it would probably feel like an exhibition. But because it's going to effect where you stack in the Rolex Rankings. It's going to affect where you are in official prize money for the year, which affects everything as an LPGA professional. It affects tournaments you get in, determines your world rank, points for players for the year and the trophy and everything else. You'll see come Sunday down the stretch, these will be players playing to win.
Winning gets you in the Titleholders and a lot of other benefits. Because official tour winners get a lot of other benefit that's come with winning, and this is an official tour event.
DAVID HIGDON: In fact, Yani just enjoyed one of those benefits which was a stay in Canyon Ranch. She just came back. Two days were you up there?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, two days.
DAVID HIGDON: So you're going to Taiwan. There is going to be a tournament there next year. Tell us about that a little bit.
YANI TSENG: This year, yeah. Yeah, I'm looking forward to playing a tournament in Taiwan. We'll prepare a lot for this LPGA tournament. We're working so hard because, like I say, golf is very popular in Korea and Japan.
But now I'm so happy there is a women's tournament in Taiwan, so I will totally support this event.
COMMISSIONER WHAN: One thing Yani doesn't say, too, is golf may be just growing in popularity in Taiwan. But Yani is kind of the Michael Jordan of Taiwan. When I was flying through Malaysia this year, I went through the Taiwan airport and saw a big poster of Yani when I got off. It's kind of like Paula Creamer in the U.S. She's a rock star in her hometown. I'm excited to showcase her and all of her peers when we get there at the end of the season.
Big tournament with a big purse. $2 million purse, and 80 players teeing it up at the Sunrise Golf and Country Club. That will be a lot of fun. These new events keep getting better.
DAVID HIGDON: How would you answer Diane's question, Yani, about playing that tournament and even though it's not for money, does that matter? Are you going to go there to win? Are you going to play hard? Will it be part of your schedule?
YANI TSENG: It will be a regular tournament. You just don't get the money. But the money is going to go for charity. So it's kind of you're helping people, so it makes you happy too. So it doesn't matter how much money you win, but everything to go for charity, I think that's a very good thing.
COMMISSIONER WHAN: Some of you probably saw last year the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, Kim won the tournament and turned around and donated the entire $220,000 check to charity.
She had said for a while, when I win a tournament I want to give back. So she knew that wasn't for money either, but didn't stop her from lapping the field on the back nine on the final day.
The Kia Classic is moving to L.A., and the Pacific Palm Resort. So it will be right in the heart of L.A. in the City of Industry. We get to go from Phoenix, to L.A., to Rancho Mirage. It's a nice, 1, 2, 3 punch to start our U.S. swing.
Q. After you take out tournament operation expenses, the stipends, et cetera, how much of the purse do you expecting to toward the charity? And second question is to that part. How many current events do you have for Top 10 players to play that week?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: Let me make sure I understand the second part of your question. How many tournaments did you say of what?
Q. How many of the Top 10 players have committed to play in the Founders Cup? Have you surveyed the upper echelon?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: The Top 10 players found out about the date, the location and the title sponsor at 10:00 this morning, so they haven't even been given the sign‑up sheet yet.
But you know, you and I spent the year together at tournaments. I've certainly done my share of checking in to see where the top players head is in this. I have no concern about top quality of field in Phoenix.
With regards to the money, it's like any Top 10 tournament. First time we held the Kia Classic, we held on to break even. But we'll do more than break even. My goal is for this tournament to generate a million dollars incremental a year for Girl's Golf.
My hope is to get halfway there in the first year like any tournament would. But my goal is to be on a million dollars run rate. If we're on a million dollars run rate a year, this charity will be monstrous relative to its current size. And I think that's the way we can really make a huge difference. If we get 450 to 550 (thousand) in this first year, I'll be excited because I know what the run rate looks like on a tournament.
I feel good on the economics that are in front of me about achieving that here in March. Obviously, I picked Phoenix Arizona, and Wildfire Golf Club, and that time of the year for a reason. It was a good place, a place where the players like to play, and it's really convenient to play into the first major. They like Kia Classic. They'll love the idea that they can drive from one, two, and three and people want to be their best by the time they tee it up in Palm Springs. Those are all things a nervous commissioner does to make sure a first time event is good. Because I know once they play in it, we'll do a lot of things to make sure they enjoy it. Once they play in it, they'll be back.
Q. What is the status of the MoJo 6? I noticed it's not on the schedule?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: They're still working on it. At one time we were trying to turn that into an official event for 2011. We've gone back and forth on that as well. They're still trying to secure some funding.
But I didn't feel comfortable enough to put it on '11 or put it on the date because I don't think they're comfortable doing that at this point as well.
Q. I have a question that relates more to the big picture. I know you want to add events to the schedule, if not this year, next. But I also know when you talked about the benefit of being able to roll out the top players each and every tournament. Is there a time or a certain tournament number that you start to worry about players skipping tournaments or taking weeks off? Do you want that top happen?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: The reality of it is the top players in the world, no matter how many tournaments are on our schedule, tend to play between 23 to 27, 28 tournaments. So if you get up around 30, 35 tournaments, you get into some getting in, some getting out. So I'll worry about that in the next year.
At the same time, what starts to happen if you look at the history of the LPGA, you get a huge opportunity for some of the players you wouldn't normally see. They start to take off, and that's where the Lorena Ochoas, you may not have thought of in the first couple of years, gets the opportunity and here we go.
The one thing that frustrates me is I think about the LPGA schedule in 2011 is I want to see more opportunity. Even if that means the top players don't play in all of them, because that will provide opportunity for some women who might not get into those breaks.
I think that's quite frankly what I'm going to be focused on over the first three or four years. I want to make sure that we sat rate the opportunities. Not only does the world get to see the best players, but some of these players can grab on to their game and go on.
One thing I've made a comment on publicly is in the current world of the LPGA, it is a pretty good career opportunity for 75 to 100 women, but it's not a great opportunity for 175 women and I'd like to fix that. I can't right now, but I'm on it. Because I know I can provide a great platform for the great players of the world, and at the same time I want to provide a platform for the next great ones. That is one of the things that will happen as we fill in more and more of the open spots.
It's been a while to see the final thawing of the U.S. economy. But in the last four or five months it's been an exciting time. I would tell you that I wouldn't event tell you that I don't believe the 2011 tour schedule is complete. I think you might see a surprise or two still from us.
Q. Could you clarify specifics? You were saying more tournaments, more money, etcetera. Is that 28 events, correct?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: 25 official events. We list some events in here because players and fans want to know where the LPGA is. We don't consider Solheim official or the Brazil trip or Wendy's three tour, but 25 official events.
We played 24 last year. As most of you know in terms of last year's schedule, there is nothing to hide. In last year's schedule we lost Jamie Farr, and Corning in Toledo for 2011. But they signed an agreement to come back in '12, '13, and '14, and CVS went away. CVS joined in the acquisition of Long's Drugs. When they acquired Long's Drugs, there were two years left in the contract. They were up front with us that they were going to run through the end of the contract and move on. We lost two tournaments in '11, one which is coming back for the next three years.
In losing those two, we added three more. And you'll see Taiwan and China and Founders. I think, like I said, you'll probably see another new one. We're playing for about $44 million in total purse, and last year we played for about $41.4.
Our average purse is $1.75, and that includes a tournament with zero purse. So I'm excited to say tournaments per purse we're pretty strong. We'll be on TV 23, 24 times. Last year we were on TV 21 times. With our global network now, we're on TV worldwide.
You and I have had this conversation too. But when you get back to what the LPGA is all about, power, inspire, educate. The way for us to do that is to give the best women on the planet an opportunity to empower, inspire, and educate. We want to do that literally worldwide and do that as many places as we can.
So getting on more, getting on TV more, playing for more, it's all part of a growth plan to make sure we really do create the greatest golfers worldwide and give them that opportunity.
Q. Yesterday I was at Morgan Pressel's event, and speaking to her and Angela Stanford, their stance is this is kind of the last kind of year ‑‑ they figured the tour was going to have to suck it up last year and this year and things are looking bright in '12 and '13. Maybe the average person will look at the schedule and not be able to see that. Can you kind of expand on that thought a little? You did say you have three tournaments already kind of lined up domestically in '12?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: Well, I share an awful lot with the players. Probably most people would tell you too much. You can see I'm a talker. So when I get together at players meetings I like to let them know what we're doing, who we're working with what sponsors. Especially players like Morgan and Angela, they're at those meetings.
So they know. I have them involved. Players like that, and Yani (Tseng) and Paula (Creamer) and Michelle (Wie), Cristie (Kerr), they tend to get involved with us to help secure some of these players.
I mean, RR Donnelley played at Paula's course (Isleworth) when they were down here in Titleholders, which I'm sure helps bring them farther into the tournament. So they know. We've been able to generate some pretty significant leads. And you're right. I think we've got ‑‑ I feel pretty confident that we're adding some pretty good tournaments. One of the reasons we waited on the 2011 schedule was we had to move some Asian dates because we were in conflict.
The other reason we waited is a couple of CEO's asked us to. They were trying to move their board from starting in '12 to starting in '11. I got a couple of shots on that as to why would the commissioner wait? And I said I'd rather make you upset than the title business partners that put us in business. So I waited.
Q. Any news on Lexi Thompson's petition? I know something's coming out soon.
COMMISSIONER WHAN: We made it through 35 minutes before Lexi Thompson was brought up. No, just kidding you. Bobby from Blue Giraffe and I, which is her management team, are talking on Monday. We've talked throughout the holidays. They're good people. I like Lexi; I like her parents. I'm excited to know they have a long‑term strategy with Lexi.
I don't think there is a desire to see how fast can she be in how many tournaments. So what they've asked for is different, and doesn't really exist today. So we've had dialogue. I don't think Bobby would tell you anything other than we've had dialogue. But we'll come to conclusions early next week.
Q. I know the news is old, the decision to move the Kia Classic to Industry Hills. But I'm wondering if you can comment on the official rationale from moving the event from La Costa to Industry Hills?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: La Costa's gone through a major renovation, in the middle of it now on the course and the hotel. Could we have played around a lot of course renovation? Maybe. Did it make sense for us or them? You're really not showcasing the best when you're working around cranes and drainage ditches and that kind of stuff. It's not the best of solutions.
It just seemed to make sense. They wanted to make major changes and we didn't want to be in their way. Pacific Palms has turned out to be a phenomenal partner and location. I think we've got a little bit of the best of both worlds.
Q. Is the intention to stay there for years after this year or is it maybe going on to move back and forth through places around Southern California?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: I don't know. Our origin intention was to go to Pacific Palms, and then back to Kia Classic. But we've had some interest in Southern California, and my challenge to my team is how we can do both.
Q. Yani, question for you. I know you've had obviously a strong year and you're in the midst of the off‑season now. I know you're someone who likes to live life to the fullest. Would you say that you've done more celebrating this off‑season or have you been working pretty hard on your game would you say?
YANI TSENG: I think I've been working pretty hard on my English because I went to English school in Orlando for four weeks and I learned lots of grammar and vocabulary. I wish I could talk more and talk more about my story. I was in Orlando till December and practicing English.
Q. You think you'll head back to Oak Valley once you're done at Rancho Mirage?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, I'm here right now. I'm in Mission Hills and sitting in the office, doing the media update today, reading the books for all of the kids.
Q. Do you think you'll go back to Beaumont at all?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, probably before the Kraft Nabisco, I'll be back.
Q. You've probably got a wish list and this is probably not on the front burner since these aren't your moving parts. But eyeballing the schedule here, you see this cluster of majors right in the middle of the season three and four tournament stretch. Is there any chance down the road we'll get a little more separation on those so they can maybe get the attention they deserve as free standing entities as opposed to getting lost in a cluster there?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: Yes, I totally agree with you, and the answer is yes. You'll see that starting next year. We had some date challenges this year, and by the time ‑‑ I was a rookie commissioner, so I was kind of slow in working out the LPGA Championship with Wegmans, and by the time we worked that out we had tried to flip the dates, but had some real conflicts with both courses and TV and other tournaments.
So you can blame that on me, because that's really where it falls. That was a rookie commissioner mistake. What I said is I didn't want to work out major contracts when I have been on the job four months. I felt the learning curve was too steep and was making too many mistakes, probably still am.
One of the mistakes I was making was being patient, because the patience cost me a little bit in spacing. I agree with your point, and yes, you can count on better spacing in 2012.
Q. I guess the easiest fix would be for you to move the Wegmans since I guess that is your property. Do you see the lineup changing at all other than the spacing? Does the LPGA go last? That would be an easy way to create separation since you've got limited leverage on the USGA and European Ladies Golf running the other two?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: What I can tell you is you'll see better spacing. Whether you'll see Wegmans earlier or later to be determined. But I agree with your point. Wish you I didn't, but I do.
Q. Can you elaborate anything on the surprise event you might be adding this year? Would it be domestic, overseas? Is there anything can you give us?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: I would just say the event or two that we're talking about where there is still some pretty significant interest in adding to '11, the one I referenced when I said that, I think there might still be a surprise or two is a domestic event, yes. Domestic, full‑field event.
Q. This year at the TOUR Championship which we held the first week of December, I had a consistent player theme which is commissioner, how come we're ending so late?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: We want an off‑season to do things and relax and rehab. Sure would be nice if we can get the season over by Thanksgiving. I heard that consistently. That wasn't a, hey, get us started again one month later. So there is a desire to have a real off‑season. I also think it's good for fan reengagement to take a break and come back hard. So I think there are open windows in the middle of the season. I don't really have a desire to close the end and start.
Q. I understand that the sponsor, RR Donnelley is a company from out in Eastern Pennsylvania. Their wish is to eventually, or next year supposedly to bring the tournament back there. So my question is, is there going to be a tournament for sure in Phoenix in 2012? Would you leave the Founders Cup there? Or is the plan to move the Founders Cup and replace it with another tournament in Phoenix?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: Yes, RR Donnelley is a billion dollars plus printer. They're headquartered in Chicago, and they have an executive office in Manhattan. But they have printing facilities and production facilities all over the place, including some in Pennsylvania.
When we sat down with them they said here are our priorities. We want a place our fans, players and customers will want to come. And in a perfect world closer to our employees. And we thought Phoenix delivered across a lot of those but wasn't close to a lot of their employees.
But I'm going to give you my hope, because when you start talking about what happened after '11, you have an asterisk after it. My hope is to showcase the LPGA back in Phoenix. We know there are three or four title perspective business partners that say, yes, we're going to leave it here. We can leave Founders there, and we also have locations in New York, and Pennsylvania because we know those will work for them.
Just like any place, we're doing our due diligence on a lot of players. You'll see a tournament or two in Arizona in 2012, but it probably wouldn't be Founders, you know, you can take that for what it's worth.
Q. One of the things we found appealing?
DAVID HIGDON: One of the things we found appealing about Founders being in Phoenix is that's where Girl's Golf is founded. So the fact that this program is going to be supported there in Phoenix is a good synergy for this first event to be held there. So that was one of the pluses.
Q. Are you saying you wouldn't be surprised if there is a tournament or two in Phoenix?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: That's what I said. We do well there, and I think they do well with us. It's a place that customers like to come around title sponsors. And I think that as the economy of the world changes and gets back to normalcy. It's a place that we can certainly play and a place that we can play more than once. Will that happen? I don't know. My point is, I feel comfortable we'll be in Arizona long‑term. Could it be with the Founders? Yes. Could it be with the Founders moving somewhere else and another tournament coming to Arizona? I do.
Q. How difficult is it to play when there are going to be three two‑week breaks. There are going to be eight other one‑week breaks. Do you go find maybe other tournaments and other tours? How difficult is it to stay sharp when there are so many off weeks?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, I see the schedule this year. It's so much better. We have two tournaments and get a week off. It's really tough because I had no tournaments to play after Arkansas and it's really tough to keep all the rhythm. So this year's schedule is very good, very tight. And just really good for me and I think for all of the players. They're all prepared for this year.
Q. Do you think you'll add some other tournaments over on other tours?
YANI TSENG: I'm not sure yet.
Topics: Tseng, Yani