LPGA Tour ahead of the curve on travel

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LPGA Tour ahead of the curve on travel

NAPLES, Florida - Alarm bells went off when the best golfers no longer were Americans, whether the measure was a ranking or simply who kept winning the majors.

That was the LPGA Tour a generation ago. The next cause for concern in women’s golf was having to leave home to build a schedule.

It looks like the LPGA Tour again was ahead of its time.

The women finished a whirlwind - not to mention worldwide - schedule over the last three months by going from Virginia to England to Alabama in consecutive weeks, and then ended its season with three straight tournaments that took them from Japan to Mexico to Florida.

This might not have been what Karrie Webb had in mind when she moved halfway around the world for a Hall of Fame career on the LPGA Tour. Her rookie season, there were 34 events on the LPGA Tour schedule, all but four of them in the United States. This year, 12 of the 27 official events were outside the country.

“I envisioned playing most of my career in the U.S.,” she said. “Even for me, coming from Australia, it was a bit of an adjustment. But I realized that’s where the money is .?.?. having Asian events helps the health of our tour.”

Cristie Kerr put it more bluntly, as she always does.

“We were definitely ahead of the curve,” Kerr said. “Without that, our tour might have gone away. We have a lot to be thankful for of the Asian countries.”

The LPGA Tour’s worldwide schedule used to be seen as a stigma. Now it is a way of life for them.

“Every business where I’ve worked went global,” LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said.

Players, meanwhile, found cause to embrace trips overseas. They get a business-class plane ticket and stay in five-star hotels in Singapore, Malaysia and just about everywhere else they go. There is no cut, so everyone makes money. They are treated like rock stars, compared with getting ignored at times in America.

“In Malaysia, our players stayed in a five-star hotel connected to a mall,” Whan said. “I’m sure we raised the gross national product that week.”

He said the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore had the atmosphere of the U.S. Women’s Open, and its Korean event attracted more coverage and bigger crowds than the K.J. Choi Invitational held the same week.

AP
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