Tourney could be nearing its curtain callWritten by Dave Woolford | | email@example.com
As sports fans, we sit back and watch, not always with complete affection, as the world shrinks with rapid advancements in technology, transportation and communication.
The Russians and Swedes have invaded the NHL, major league baseball has a distinct Latino flavor, American-born Indy-car drivers comprised just one-third of the 33-car Indianapolis 500 field in May.
The NFL and NBA are somewhat shielded from foreign invasion because no other country can match our feeder system, our developmental leagues, more commonly referred to as colleges and universities.
It’s all OK. It’s another component of global warming.
And then it lands in our own backyard and it’s not OK. It takes on a repulsive persona. We become discriminatory. Our international spirit is somewhat compromised.
If you haven’t already guessed, and I’m absolutely sure you haven’t, we’re talking about the LPGA and more specifically, the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic presented by Kroger at Highland Meadows.
It’s the 25th year of the annual Toledo tour stop and with 48 of the top 50 players, including all of the top 10, we’ve had no finer field.
But there’s this problem. In NCAA post-season tournament parlance, we’re considered a mid-major. With bigger U.S-cities and more international venues in the mix to accommodate the rapid influx of foreign-born players, LPGA locations, such as Toledo and Rochester, N.Y., are hitting out of tough rough. Rochester hosted its annual LPGA event recently for the 33rd consecutive year. The hard truth is that both might be getting priced out of the market.
Rochester tried hard, queried everyone of LPGA prominence, including commissioner Carolyn Bivens, but found no one willing to guarantee the return of its tournament. And Rochester offered a $2 million purse. With the extremely hard work and passion of tournament director Judd Silverman, Toledo has scraped up a purse of $1.4 million.
It’s no secret that Bivens, who became the first woman to lead the LPGA in 2005, had visions of grandeur, which can sometimes be interpreted as a depiction of greed. We’ve seen it in every sport. It’s all-inclusive.
But now it’s in our own backyard and it’s not OK.
That’s because it’s the biggest sporting event we have, not just in the summer but year-round. It’s huge for our community and our economy. We supply more than 1,200 tournament volunteers who serve with pride. But most of all, again through the dedication of Silverman and his associates, our tournament has donated more than $6.2 million to charities, most of them local.
But with visions of grandeur dancing through her head, Bivens has raised the sanctioning fee considerably. Silverman won’t divulge how much, but does admit it jumped a bunch last year and then held fast this year. It’s rumored that the fee might more than double in 2010. And while we’re dealing with unverified reports, it’s also reported that Silverman will have to increase his purse substantially.
To all those idle speculations, Silverman says they’re not necessarily true. Why? Because he’s in contract negotiations with the LPGA and there’s this confidentiality thing.
Silverman will admit, “Any time your contract is up anything could happen next year. We’re either going to negotiate a new agreement or we’re not. I’m giving my personal opinion and I’m hoping we have a 99 percent chance of getting it done.
“Everyone has to do what they can to negotiate a livable business model that makes everyone happy,” he said. “We’re in business to make money for charities and if we can’t raise enough money for charity to keep our sponsors happy, then we’re not going to be around very long. We’ve always been able to find a win-win scenario with the LPGA and we’re hoping that we can continue to do that.”
But Bivens has to be very careful, too, not only because of the anemic economy. Why does Toledo have its best field ever that includes 48 of the top 50 players, including 10 of the top 10?
Because there are five fewer LPGA events this year, players, all of a sudden, have to play, everywhere. They can’t be as selective with fewer sources of income.
Silverman admits that while the tournament will finish in the black there might not be as much money given to charities, such as last year’s $350,000.
Will the finest women golfers in the world be back next year? That will be the prominent question of this tournament. The time-worn, canned responses will vary from, “Contract negotiations have been very productive,” to, “I feel good about the tournament returning to Toledo.”
But in essence, the season-long LPGA tournament begins in Thailand and ends in South Korea — South Koreans are the most influential golfers in the LPGA tournament standings.
How many times have you seen such top-name LPGA players as In-Kyung Kim or Ji Yai Shin on Letterman or sitting next to Oprah?
You get the picture. Going global is OK to a point, but let’s not forget our roots. Toledo has consistently been an LPGA tournament bastion during good times and bad for the past quarter century. We deserve to remain so, not because of entitlement, but because of loyalty, sacrifice, hard work and passion.