Altvater: LPGA Tour commissioner likes what he sees in ToledoWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
LPGA Tour Commissioner Michael Whan was at the Marathon Classic this week and likes what he sees in Toledo.
Whan assumed the role as the head of the women’s tour in January 2010 at a time when the number of tournaments on the LPGA Tour as well as fan interest was declining.
Since joining the LPGA Tour, the number of tournaments on the women’s tour has drastically increased and he has re-energized corporate interest in the ladies’ game.
Whan makes an appearance at every LPGA Tour event and said he especially likes coming to Ohio. He is from the state, attended Miami University and worked for Procter & Gamble after college.
One of his first promises as commissioner was to get the tour back to 30 to 32 tournaments each year and double television ratings.
Most industry professionals thought he was crazy.
He proved them wrong and has made good on those promises.
The 2014 LPGA Tour schedule boasts 33 events. A $1 million-dollar Race to the CME Globe and the International Crown have been added to boost total purse value and provide more exposure for the women.
In addition, the Symetra Tour, the feeder system for young players to earn admittance to the LPGA Tour has grown to 20 events this year and will add four to five more over the next two years.
The tour is seeing double-digit increases in television ratings this year and over 50 percent of the tournaments have had the highest ratings in tournament history.
Whan and the LPGA Tour embrace the international flavor of the tour and want to continue to grow golf worldwide, but he also understands the importance of the addition of many of these new events in North America.
Whan has seen the waves of various ethnicities winning on the LPGA Tour. Asians and Europeans took turns dominating the tour, but this year American women have won all three majors.
“You are seeing the best of the best week-in and week-out on the LPGA Tour,” Whan said. “Occasionally you see a name you haven’t seen before, but generally you are seeing the best rise to the top every week and that makes for great TV, but also great competition every weekend.”
Whan feels that 2015 will see one of the largest raises in total prize money available for the lady professionals in tour history.
With the schedule maxed out, there is more competition between tournaments and corporate sponsors to fund LPGA Tour events thus increasing the dollars available for prize money. When there were only 23 to 24 tournaments the players had to play every week. Now with 33 tournaments the players only need to play in 26 to 28 events and will make more income.
For example, the partnership with the PGA of America will increase the purse for the LPGA Championship by $1.25 million to $3.5 million in 2015. The United States Golf Association (USGA) increased its purse for the U.S. Women’s Open Championship to $4 million and will probably go higher next year.
It is a great time to be a professional golfer on the LPGA Tour. The demand for quality women golfers is strong at the collegiate and professional level.
Commissioner Whan is making sure the best women golfers in the world will have a place to play and be well compensated when they do tee it up.
Fred Altvater offers golf tips and videos at www.toledoohiogolflessons.com. Email him at BackNine@toledofree press.com or follow him on Twitter @tolohgolfr.