As I near the finish line of my 10th season as LPGA Commissioner, it’s hard not to reflect on our journey together and dream about what we can accomplish in the decade ahead.
2010 seems like a long time ago. Many of you may not have been with the LPGA back then and may not be aware of the challenges we faced. We’d just lost a third of our LPGA tournaments and North America was in a stifling recession. Our television coverage was neither frequent nor live (mostly tape delayed) and we were making a few rookie mistakes on our journey to becoming a global sports property.
I’ll never forget my first 100 days on the job, listening to the concerns of so many sponsors, media and tournament partners. I also remember the pure joy (and relief) I felt when I spent time with our Tour and Teaching Professionals. I was instantly bolstered when I saw how our Members embraced the challenges, respected our sponsors and were willing to do whatever it took to grow our organization.
Phrases like “Role Reversal,” “Act Like a Founder,” and “Embrace Global” were new back then but are now part of our daily vocabulary and LPGA culture. Together, we’ve built an incredible team from all over the world to enhance opportunities for women in golf. What was once just a Tour and Teaching Division is now a global business, connecting, supporting and inspiring women and girls at every stage of their journey with golf:
- LPGA Tour
- LPGA Symetra Tour
- LPGA Professionals
- LPGA Foundation
- LPGA-USGA Girls Golf
- LPGA Amateurs
- LPGA Women’s Network
- LPGA Leadership Academies
On the Rise
Since 2010, we’ve experienced more than 50% increase in tournaments, more than 80% increase in purse levels, over 100% increase in TV coverage and a season-long race to the biggest individual payday in women’s golf. The Symetra Tour has grown its schedule and purses even more over a shorter period of time.
LPGA Professionals membership is up 50%, with our teachers now coming from 30 different countries. Our LPGA teaching curriculum is broadly recognized as the most customer-focused in the world and is available online so committed instructors can improve their skills whenever and wherever they choose.
Ten years ago, I’m not sure many of us would have been bold enough to predict where we are our today. Events like the KPMG Women’s PGA, Race to the CME Globe, UL International Crown and Founders Cup weren’t even an idea back then. In fact, 19 of the 33 official events on the 2020 LPGA Tour Schedule weren’t on the LPGA Tour just 10 years ago! Now we have an official team event, five strong majors, multiple events played with men, exciting season-long competitions, events staged in 12 different regions of the world and TV coverage in over 160 countries. We have built incredible alliances with many industry stakeholders, who have also helped us to create a stronger LPGA and fuel the growth of young women in the game. Our Tour Professionals come from more than 50 countries and regions, and each year, it seems we welcome another member who is the first from her country.
I’m proud of our team and proud of our success together. But every time I’m asked to reflect on our accomplishments or where I want to go next in my career, three words run through my head: I’M NOT DONE.
The past has been exciting and rewarding, but I’m sure you don’t think this is as good as it gets! Together, we can certainly envision an EVEN BETTER future!
Imagine a future where half the people who play golf are women. How can we be satisfied with anything less? I know we won’t change the demographics overnight, but if we continue to focus on the “future of the game” (those under 18), we will change how golf looks in 2035! We’ve already gone from 20% of youth golfers being female to 36% in 10 years. I think 50-50 participation is not only achievable, but inevitable in junior golf. If we stay focused on LPGA-USGA Girls Golf and continue to partner with others who can fuel this momentum, we will change the face of our game forever.
Most golfers never forget the special people who started them on their golf journey and helped them along the way. By increasing the number of female teachers, coaches and other professionals in the game, we’ll make sure more of those special people are women. Female professionals need to be impacting the next generation of players at all levels and in all corners of the globe. Our teaching division, much like our Tour, needs to lead that global expansion.
As we continue to connect with women of all ages and playing abilities, the LPGA has the opportunity – and the responsibility – to be the voice for women in golf. Women represent the largest untapped potential for our game to double in size. We need to take our leadership role seriously and protect and pursue growth opportunities that may not happen without our involvement. It’s not OK to simply play golf or be an LPGA member. Both individually and as a group, we must be relentless in finding ways to make this game better and more inviting to half the world’s population.
EQUALITY MUST BE MORE THAN A VALUE STATEMENT
If a company’s stated values are to provide equal opportunities for women to advance and succeed, why wouldn’t their marketing/sponsorship dollars reflect that? How is it that nearly every company claims equal opportunity is a cornerstone of their business, but 95% of all corporate sports sponsorship dollars are spent on male sports? There is no doubt we’re at a tipping point and more executives, shareholders and investors are questioning whether their corporate values are reflected in every aspect of their company, including marketing and sponsorship decisions. Increased corporate support translates into more opportunities for women in golf and more opportunities for female athletes to be seen as role models of confidence, ability and accomplishment.
As you know, we have some incredible partners that “walk the talk” on women’s issues and have lifted the LPGA to new heights. Let’s always give them the recognition and respect they deserve, as they are the real reason the LPGA is in such a strong position heading into 2020!
Each of us has a platform and an opportunity to lead. Tour players show how to treat fans, how to treat each other and how to respect the game. LPGA Professionals embrace golfers at every skill level and create a welcoming environment where students of all ages are excited about the game. Our amateurs and Women’s Network members can build teams of women so significant and so united that they create change with their voices and their dollars.
Yes, I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together over these past 10 years. But we shouldn’t let anyone think this is as good as it gets. Our Founders taught us to dream big. They taught us how to work within the realities of today but not to accept them as the future. They taught us to Drive On, to be relentless, and to make it better for the next generation.
One of the things I’ve learned from the past 10 years is I like being the underdog. I like it when others bet against us. I like the fact that some people think we’re satisfied with our progress . . . when the truth is, we’re just getting started!
The next 10 years begins soon! Are you ready?