The IX: Golf Thursday with Carly Grenfell, April 4, 2019

Huge weekend in women's golf — Interview with Mike Nichols — Must-click women’s golf links

Editor’s note: Welcome back! If you are here, you are either enjoying a free trial through April 28, or you have already made the commitment to funding this daily, vital commitment to women’s sports coverage and insider information from those who cover the sport. Your money goes toward the time and energy we spend every day to fix a playing field tilted against women’s sports coverage.

Continue reading with a subscription to The IX

Get unlimited access to our exclusive coverage of a varitety of women’s sports, including our premium newsletter by subscribing today!

Join today

For those of you enjoying our daily output, I’d encourage you to sign up today to make sure you continue receiving our full complement of insider info, exclusive interviews and comprehensive links. It works out to around 14 cents a day on a $50 annual membership, 17 cents a day at $5 a month. Thank you all for being part of the future in women’s sports media.

The Timing of the LPGA’s First Major and the ANWA

Alright, so I know I’ve mentioned the Augusta National Women’s Amateur (ANWA) the last couple weeks and what an incredible event it’s shaping up to be. But can we talk about how it falls on the same weekend of the ANA Inspiration, which is the first LPGA Major of the 2019 season? The ANWA teed off yesterday morning and the first round of the ANA Inspiration is today.

Of course, majors are a big deal and should be celebrated and hyped up. But it’s a bummer that the attention is being taken away from a truly historical moment in women’s golf. And plus, some amateurs chose to compete in the ANA Inspiration over Augusta National, when in a perfect world, it would have been great if they didn’t have to choose one over the other. I encourage you to read this article that articulates this even more and poses interesting questions surrounding the timing.

Why not save the inaugural ANWA for a weekend that doesn’t fall on the same weekend of a major? Or why not try and find another weekend for ANA? I’d like to believe there are conversations behind had about this for the future of the event and continuing the momentum it has generated in year one.

I get having ANWA leading into the Masters, as more eyeballs are on Augusta and the excitement is building. But it’s hard not to wonder what kind of buzz it would generate the weekend before or even after? I realize there’s probably a ton more that goes into picking a date, and it’s really not that simple, but you still wonder.

Mike Whan, in an interview with Golf Channel, admitted he, too, was a little frustrated that these two events fell on the same weekend. He believes the ANA Inspiration will be the same weekend next year as well, but is still encouraged because regardless, it’s a huge weekend for women’s golf. So, to Whan’s point, it is indeed a bummer—but still a good thing that women’s golf is being talked about and celebrated so much this week. By the way, here’s another great opinion piece from Golfweek that speaks to this topic.

Other than the date, I was also surprised that the only round the amateurs will actually play at Augusta National is the final round on Saturday. The first 36 holes are being played on the Island and Bluff nines at Champions Retreat Golf Club in Augusta. Friday, the amateurs will have an official practice round at Augusta National and the final round will commence on Saturday, April 6. Only the Top 30 will play on Saturday after the 36-hole cut.

If you’re thinking okay, Carly, quit whining about a major step in women’s golf; it’s the first year and we should just be happy that they are giving women this opportunity. Trust me, I’m stoked! I think it’s a really, really big deal. I commend Augusta National and all the moving forces behind the event itself to make it happen. But as many of us in this industry know and understand, we just want the absolute best for girls and women. We always want a little more. That’s all. 🙂

This Week in Women’s Golf

Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me!

We have a two-way tie atop the Augusta National Women’s amateur leaderboard!

Check out some other highlights and notes from Round 1 of the ANWA.

ANWA to showcase rising stars in women’s golf.

This is an incredible read on a golfer’s fight for acceptance.

The ANWA has golfing conflicts, but it’s a start.

ANA extends sponsorship with LPGA for three years.

Brooke Henderson looks to make history at ideal spot on LPGA.

Some fun news and notes ahead of the ANA Inspiration.

Can Nelly Korda get it done at the ANA Inspiration.

For Brittany Lincicome, it’s baby first then tournaments.

In case you missed it, Nasa Hataoka won the Kia Classic last week!

Cristie Kerr’s hole-in-one celebration at the Kia Classic was priceless.

Opinion: prize money on LPGA is nothing to complain about.

Pernilla Lindberg lost a bet once. It’s pretty funny.

Despite a four-stroke penalty at last year’s ANA, Lexi Thompson is back for 2019.

Tweet of the Week

Five at The IX: Mike Nichols

This seems like an appropriate time to resurface this interview with the Symetra Tour’s Chief Business Officer, Mike Nichols. He sat down with Front Office Sport’s Adam White to talk about the direction of the Symetra Tour and why it’s so important to invest in the development of players. He offers some awesome insight that goes hand-in-hand with the opportunities amateurs are getting at this weeks Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the overall strides being made in women’s golf. You can view the full interview here.

Q. Mike, it’s a good time to be in the Symetra Tour, right?

Nichols: Absolutely. We’ve had a nice little run here as of late. Back in 2013, we were playing 15 times for about 1.6 million dollars in prize money. This year, we’re playing 24 times, which is the most tournaments we’ve ever had since 1988, and we’re playing for four million dollars in prize money for the first time. So, it’s really, we’ve seen a nice little growth period here of late.

Q. For you, what has contributed to that growth factor?

Nichols: So really there’s two big things. When I first started with the tour, we had to look at how we were selling the product working with our partners. And our tournament model, frankly, was broken, and so we had a lot of turnover. In 2013, in that first six-month period we were able to add four tournaments, but we lost five in that same six months. So when you add four tournaments and you lose five, you’re thinking, ‘Well I did a lot of work, and we’re going in the wrong direction here.’ So we had to fix that tournament model.

Then, secondarily, we had to look at the companies that we were approaching. I think we were trying too much to be the LPGA Tour. The LPGA Tour is a good opportunity for global brands who are trying to reach a mass market. Our strength is really in the B-to-B space. We really had to look at who our partners were, who we were approaching and setting the expectations for what we could do well, which is really to deliver a B-to-B experience in the local communities in which we play.

Q. I think that’s a different sell, right? B-to-C global brands is really a lot different than B-to-B brands. I’m sure there was an adjustment period?

Nichols: It’s definitely difficult and it’s a lot harder to identify those companies that take the blinds off of how many impressions am I getting for this. That’s a challenge is getting past that CMO or that gatekeeper where that’s the first question; “well, what’s the TV look like?” So we had to say that’s really not our strength but here’s what we can deliver. In the golf space we deliver the best sort of value in B-to-B experience. And we can take the tour to essentially any community in the country.

Q: When you’re approaching these fans and these sponsors, what is the pitch and the sales process to say you should invest in the Symetra Tour and here’s why?

Nichols: When Symetra first joined us, they were a challenger brand and we’re a challenger tour, but we like to think we’re growing out of that a little bit. For them, it was an opportunity to put their name on an entire tour, that for them, they were trying to get in front of folks in the banking space as well as putting their advisors out there and build their business in the B-to-B space of the tour. If I were pitching this to a new business, I’d say we can deliver you to 24 markets in which you can entertain customers.

Q: What can the Symetra Tour really provide as a development tour?

Nichols: In calling it the official qualifying tour, we want people to look and see that these are professional golfers playing at the highest level and all they are doing is looking for their opportunity. My favorite day of the year is that Sunday when we award those ten cards and you see the families out there and the audience and sort of these young ladies realizing their dreams. It’s really cool. But what’s really changed from now versus 2012, back in 2012 all the way to today, we’ve been graduating the top ten players onto the LPGA Tour. But the ten players that have graduated over the last two or three years, are actually staying now. We had a problem that the players we sent up weren’t maintaining their card. Over the last three years, I believe nine of the ten players that we’ve graduated to the LPGA Tour have maintained status.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Lindsay Gibbs, @Linzsports ThinkProgress
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal High Post Hoops
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by The IX Team