LPGA LEAPS FORWARD IN 2012
After a 2011 Season Buoyed By Dramatic Viewership Increases
and Bold New Tournament Ideas, LPGA Tour Announces Five New Tournaments
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA, Jan. 11, 2012 - Following a 2011 season that delivered a 38 percent increase in television viewership, the announcement of a fifth major beginning in 2013, and bold new tournament concepts like the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup and the CME Group Titleholders, LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan today announced a 2012 Tour schedule that features four (4) new tournaments in North America and one (1) new international stop.
The season-opening ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open in Melbourne, the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in Waterloo, Ontario, and the return of the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic Presented by Kroger, Owens Corning and O-I in Toledo are not the only welcome additions to a schedule that’s up four (4) official events from 2011. They’re joined by the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf in Hawaii, announced last week, and the brand new Kingsmill Championship, marking the Tour’s return to the Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va. In addition to the five new events, the RR Donnelly LPGA Founders Cup will also feature a $1.5 million purse this season.
“While many fans and media may focus on our new tournament additions, I think it’s just as important to understand the core elements that have created this upward momentum for the LPGA,” Whan said. “The commitment and support of our existing tournament sponsors, the dramatic improvement in our television production and viewership, and the significant growth in marketing partners is really the foundation for our schedule growth.”
Whan today also revealed that the LPGA renewed eight of the nine tournament contracts that ended in 2011 and 10 of 11 marketing partnerships that also required new contracts. In addition to these extended agreements, the LPGA has added Kia as its Official Automotive Partner, Frontier Airlines as its Official Airline and MedJet Assist as its Official Medical Evacuation Program. Additionally, Symetra signed on as umbrella partner of the LPGA Futures Tour, now called the Symetra Tour.
“With more tournaments, more corporate partners, more viewers and more fans, the anticipation and excitement for the 2012 season is at an all-time high,” Whan said. “Our message to everyone is “See Why its Different Out Here,” and we’re hopeful that more people than ever before will take notice and become a part of our growth.”
While the majority of the 2012 tournament news has previously been announced, the Tour today also added the $1.3 million Kingsmill Championship, which will be played September 6-9. In 2013, the tournament will return to a traditional early-May date. Kingsmill Resort is owned by Xanterra Parks & Resorts, a sister company of Anschutz Entertainment Group and a subsidiary of Anschutz Company.
The 2012 tournament schedule announcement builds on new ideas announced last season by Commissioner Whan including the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, which was built to celebrate the Tour’s history and also pay-it-forward to the future of the game; the creation of a fifth major at The Evian beginning in 2013; a new international tournament in Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng’s native Taiwan; and a year-long qualification program for the inaugural CME Group Titleholders, which celebrates the partnerships of the LPGA’s title sponsors throughout the entire season.
The Tour is showing strong gains with its fan base as well. In 2011, viewership on Golf Channel increased 29 percent across all tournaments and 38 percent for North American events versus 2010. The LPGA’s digital audience grew and the Tour’s social media reach more than doubled to an aggregate of more than 1 million followers.
The Tour also announced new Japanese television rights partnerships with WOWOW and (via Golf Channel) Golf Network, launched Korean and Chinese languages Web sites, and had several top players open accounts on Weibo, a Chinese social media network. In April, the LPGA launched a new mobile Web site, and in June, the Tour launched an app for the iPhone and iPod touch allowing fans to use their mobile phones to track the action and learn about their favorite players.
Among the highlights of the LPGA Tour schedule released today:
- The addition of five (5) tournaments with 100-plus player fields and official money, four (4) of which are in North America.
- An increase in total purse from $40.4 million in 2011 to $47 million in 2012.
- 100 percent of Golf Channel’s weekend telecasts of the LPGA’s North American tournaments will have live weekend coverage on Golf Channel and the percentage of overall live telecasts is projected to be at least 90 percent.
- The return to a historically strong venue in Toledo, Ohio for the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic Presented by Kroger, Owens Corning and O-I, where the LPGA has enjoyed great galleries, exciting finishes and great Toledo hospitality at Highland Meadows Golf Club.
- A three-tournament swing through Australia and Asia to open the season in February with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open at Royal Melbourne Golf Club - home of the 2011 Presidents Cup - before return trips to the Honda LPGA Thailand and the HSBC Women’s Champions in consecutive weeks.
- The U.S. domestic schedule will again begin in March with the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup in Phoenix, followed by trips to the Kia Classic, which returns to a renovated La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., and the first major of the season, the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
- The RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup will continue to recognize the LPGA’s past and present while paying it forward for the future of women’s golf at Wildfire Golf Club in Phoenix and will now have a $1.5 million purse paid to players, a four-day, 72-hole format (up from three-days and 54-holes in 2011) and the promise of $500,000 from RR Donnelley to LPGA-USGA Girls Golf. This season, in addition to honoring the LPGA’s Founding Members, the Founders Cup will feature a special tribute to LPGA “Pioneers” who had a major role in creating one of the most successful women’s sports organizations in history.
- Players will once again work all season to punch their “Ticket to the CME Group Titleholders,” the season-ending event that features three qualifiers from every official LPGA event. In 2012, the CME Group Titleholders will be played at the TwinEagles Club in Naples and will coincide with CME Group’s Global Financial Leadership Conference.
- The dates of the major championships have been strategically scheduled as the pillars of the season. The Kraft Nabisco Championship, won in 2011 by Stacy Lewis, will take place March 29 to Apr. 1, followed by the Wegmans LPGA Championship, which returns to Locust Hill Country Club in Pittsford, N.Y. from June 7 to 10 - two weeks earlier than 2011. The U.S. Women’s Open returns to Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wisc. - site of Se Ri Pak’s historic 1998 victory - July 5-8, where Yani Tseng will look to become the youngest player in history to win the Career Grand Slam. The final major, the RICOH Women’s British Open, will for the first time be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake, which has previously hosted 11 Men’s Open Championships including Tiger Woods’ 2006 victory. The tournament will be played in mid-September to avoid conflict with the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
- The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail celebrates its 20th anniversary this season with two LPGA tournaments. Mobile, Alabama will again play host to the Tour with the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic, April 26-29 at Magnolia Grove’s Crossings Course. Three hours up I-65 in Prattville, LPGA rookie Lexi Thompson will defend her title at the Navistar LPGA Classic, where she became the youngest winner in LPGA history in 2011. The tournament returns to the Trail’s Senator Course at Capitol Hill in September.
- Solheim Cup participants Suzann Pettersen and Brittany Lincicome will defend a pair of back-to-back events next season in New Jersey and the Pacific Northwest. The Tour again boasts two LPGA tournaments in New Jersey with the Sybase Match Play Championship, where Pettersen will defend, at Hamilton Farm Golf Club in Gladstone, May 17-20, followed by the ShopRite LPGA Classic, where Lincicome will defend, at Seaview’s Bay Course outside Atlantic City, June 1-3. Pettersen is also the defending champion when the LPGA returns to Portland, Ore. for the 41st annual Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Portland, Ore., Aug. 17-19, followed by a second title defense for Lincicome at the CN Canadian Women’s Open at Vancouver Golf Club in British Columbia, Aug. 23-26.
- The Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G will move to June 29-July 1 and serve as the lead-in to the U.S. Women’s Open, creating a two-week swing that will feature $5.25 million in prize money.
- The Evian Masters Presented by Societe Generale will be contested for the final time before taking on major championship status as “The Evian” in 2013. The tournament, played at Evian Masters Golf Club in France, is once again tied with the U.S. Women’s Open for the highest purse on the Tour schedule at $3.25 million.
- The Tour will return to Asia for a four-week swing beginning in October at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, where the purse has been increased to $1.9 million, before returning to Korea for the LPGA HanaBank Championship, Taiwan for the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship, and Japan for the 39th annual Mizuno Classic.
- New mother Lorena Ochoa will host the fifth-annual Lorena Ochoa Invitational in her native Guadalajara, Mexico featuring an elite 36-player field at Guadalajara Country Club.