Monday, January 5, 2015

Why The LPGA is Pro Golf's Fastest Rising Tour

The LPGA Pro Golf's fastest Rising Tour?
If I said that 5 years ago you would have laughed at me. You can't now as the LPGA has not only become the fastest rising pro golf tour, but it just might be the fastest growing tour in all of sports.

We have all seen the television ads stating "See Why It's Different Out Here".  At first glance you might say that sounds corny. The truth of the matter is that it is absolutely true. It is different out there, and that is why the LPGA has grown in leaps and bounds over the past 5 years. What are the reasons for such rapid growth?

1- Commissioner Michael Whan - On January 4th 2010 Mr. Whan took the reigns as the Commissioner of the LPGA. He took over what many called "a sinking ship" and made a difference immediately. He took over a tour that only had 23 tournaments on its schedule. In 2015 the LPGA has 33 tournaments on its schedule, and that does not include the Solheim Cup. Mr. Whan has continuously come up with ways to make the tour better. Anything else I say about this man would be repetitive (See my article on Commissioner Whan).

2- Influx of Young Talent - The LPGA is loaded with bright young superstars. Michelle Wie (yes she is still very young), Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson, Mirim Lee, Charley Hull, and Jessica Korda, just to name a few. Not even the PGA can boast having as many young superstars.

3- Rivalries - With Tiger Woods not remotely the player he was in past years, and Phil Mickelson also past his prime, the most die hard PGA fans will have to admit that the lack of rivalries is responsible for that tour's declining TV numbers. That is certainly not the case with the LPGA. Stacy Lewis and Inbee Park have been battling each other not only on the course each week, but for the number one spot in the world rankings. Who could forget the final round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship this past year? Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie went head to head with Thompson winning her first major championship. Just a few weeks later Wie got her revenge by winning the U.S. Open. This rivalry should go on for years to come.

4- The LPGA is by Far and Away the Most Accessible and Fan Friendly Tour - This one isn't even close. If you bring your kids to a football game, what are the chances of you getting a Peyton Manning autograph? How about getting one from Lebron James at a basketball game? Probably not very good, or better yet, next to impossible. Take your kids to an LPGA event and there is an excellent chance that they will be going home with a hat or ball signed by their favorite player. Commissioner Michael Whan and Kraig Kann (Chief Communications Officer), have made this tour more fan friendly, and press friendly, than any other professional sport. Don't take my word for it, go out to a tournament. I am sure you will want to go back again!

5- The LPGA is Truly an International Tour - In 2014 there were players from 35 different countries teeing it up on the LPGA Tour.  This has not only brought interest to the tour from all over the world, but has opened up many new opportunities for tournament sponsorship. In 2015 the first player from Isreal will be competing. In 2014 the LPGA held its first International Crown tournament. It was won by Spain.

6- We Can Learn More From Watching the Women Than We Can From Watching the Men - Let's face it, most of us can't hit 365 yard drives. The men on the PGA Tour are out of our league. That is not the case when watching the LPGA players. Especially live. These girls are really good, and I am not saying that we can beat them, but it is easier to learn from them. Come on out to a tournament earlier in the week and I am sure you could pick up a few pointers watching their routines on the driving range and putting greens.

7- The Depth on this Tour Leads to Exciting Finishes - Those of you who read my blog know I am always saying that it seems every tournament comes down to the 72nd hole. With so many great players on the LPGA tour, there are very few runaway victories. This makes for great television, and explains why the LPGA ratings are rising each and every year. In fact, going into the final tournament of the year, we still didn't know who would win the Player of the Year, the Vare Trophy, who the leading money winner for the year would be, who would win the Race to the CME Globe and its 1 million dollar prize, and who would be #1 in the Rolex World Rankings. Tell me that wasn't exciting TV.

8- The U.S. Dominated the Winners' Circle in 2014 - I have already stated how important it is to this tour to have an International flavor. I couldn't imagine going to a tournament and not seeing such great players as Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu, Suzann Pettersen, and Lydia Ko. That said, this is still a U.S. based tour. This tour's continued growth is reliant on the American players holding their own. They more than held their own in 2014, leading all countries with 13 victories. With Stacy Lewis winning three times, and victories from such big stars as Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie, and Lexi Thompson, television ratings soared. In fact, Stacy Lewis was the first American player to win the top 3 awards (Player of the Year, Vare Trophy, and leading money winner) since Betsy King in 1993. It was a huge comeback for the American players who hadn't achieved this rate of success in a very long time. Here is what the last 10 years have looked like:

2005- 31 tournaments - 9 U.S wins = 29.0%
2006- 33 tournaments - 7 wins = 21.2%
2007- 30 tournaments - 10 wins = 33.0%
2008- 34 tournaments - 10 wins = 29.4%
2009- 27 tournaments - 5 wins = 18.5%
2010- 24 tournaments - 4 wins = 16.7%
2011- 23 tournaments - 4 wins = 17.4%
2012- 27 tournaments - 7 wins = 29.6%
2013- 28 tournaments - 7 wins = 25.0%
2014- 32 tournaments - 13 wins = 40.6%

To sum up, in recent years we have seen the talent grow, the purses grow, the ratings grow, and the number of tournaments grow. They have all grown significantly. The LPGA has now become the most interesting tour in professional golf.

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  1. A nice spinoff effect of the LPGA's resurgance... the Symetra Tour will have at least 23 events, possibly 24, this year. I think that is an all-time record high number. It is an increase of 3 from 2014 and 7 from a few years ago. The Symetra Tour is owned and operated by the LPGA. Each year the top 10 money winners on the Symetra Tour earn their full LPGA cards for the following season.

  2. Good point. The Symetra Tour, also known as "The Road to the LPGA", is also growing at a very fast pace.

  3. I have to admit that I enjoy watching the women play more so than the men.

    As you stated, us amateurs, our games more closely match the ladies game. Most of us are not bombers and need to play smart golf. From the tee find the fairway, hit to the proper position and than attack the pin from that point.

    The ladies are good. Fun to watch. Not to mention that they play great, smart golf!

    1. I also enjoy watching the women play much more than the guys. Their games are more like mine and they are much prettier. :)

  4. Any idea when the 2015 priority list is coming out?

    1. I talked with the LPGA yesterday and they were hoping to get it out this week.