The IX: Golf Thursday with Carly Grenfell, January 30, 2020
Early women's golf wins in 2020 — Interview with Gainbridge LPGA Champion Madelene Sagstrom — Must-click links in women's golf
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Early Wins in Women’s Golf
What’s up everybody! We are just about a month into a new decade so I thought today would be the perfect time to dive into some of the early, and big, wins that we’ve seen come out of the LPGA and in women’s golf so far this year. For the latest and greatest that’s happened over the last seven days, head on down to the links section. But for now, I’m going to highlight the best of the last 30 days and breakdown why it’s so good for women’s golf.
1) You know how previously I’ve said that we would be hearing more about the LPGA-LET relationship as things unfold and progress? That’s happening now. The initial news was more of a blanket statement just saying that the two leagues were going to come together to make each other stronger. But now, we’re seeing results.
“The LET and the LPGA only began working together in September 2019, but we’ve been blown away with the results in the first 90 days and the positive response from across the golf industry,” said Whan. “With overall purse increases and seven new events, our athletes will have more opportunities for success. It’s exciting to think what we can accomplish after a full year of working with our new Board. We have a long way to go, but I’m so happy to say that this is the best position that European women’s professional golf has ever been in.” (via LPGA.com)
What we now know is that the 2020 LET schedule has 24 tournaments, 15 of which will be in Europe (up from eight just last year). Seven of these events are new and seven others have purses of more than half a million pounds. In total, the schedule includes a record-breaking €18M in prize money. In the New Race to Costa del Sol, which is comparable to the Race to CME on the LPGA, they’ll offer the largest-ever LET bonus pool. That’s a strong 90 days for both the LPGA and LET and impressive that they’ve come this far in that amount of time. Here’s the full schedule that was just released. There are a lot of golfers who got their career back this year.
2) The LPGA’s season-opener, the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions that I highlighted a couple weeks ago, experienced its best television viewership in 11 years. This is the event where celebrities are paired up with the pros. According to the LPGA, the event this year was seen by over 4.25 million unique viewers and 306,000 viewers per minute tuned into Golf Channel or NBC that weekend. I think these numbers, coupled with the event itself, present something worth noting: it was more than just your regular LPGA event. It had another factor—celebrities—that likely attracted a different and perhaps new audience.
I really wonder if we’ll see more events like this on the LPGA in the future. Last year they introduced the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, which is a team event and the only regular-season team event. In 2020, they’ll have the largest purse on the LPGA Tour that isn’t one of the five majors. So not only do I feel like events like this, with somewhat of a twist, attract viewers and fans, it also makes it enticing for sponsors and the folks writing the checks. Everyone likes to be different or be the first to be a part of an inaugural event.
I’m curious to see if this trend continues on one of the new events announced on the LET schedule: a mixed event with the European Tour in Sweden with a $1.1 million purse. I would kill to see a PGA Tour-LPGA Tour mixed event and I’m somewhat envious that Europe beat us all to it! I’ve definitely been part of conversations that throw out the possibility of “double headers” where we host the PGA Championship and KPMG Women’s PGA Championship on the same weekend. But I think the mixed event angle is the way to go. I guarantee the viewership on that will be really strong, and hopefully encourage other leagues to dabble in a similar event.
3) In 2019, we saw a lot of first-time winners on the LPGA. And now after the first full-field event of the 2020 season, we have another first-time winner in Madelene Sagstrom. She posted a pretty touching Instagram about her win, by the way. And also worth mentioning – her full-time caddy wasn’t on her bag in Boca! She called her boyfriend’s dad to step in for the weekend and they got to share that moment together. Of course it’s fun to see players like Danielle Kang, Inbee Park and Brooke Henderson add another win to their already-illustrious careers—but new faces keep the LPGA fresh and exciting too. I can see this trend continuing this year. It’s always fun to see rookies shine early on or not-as-well-known players come up with wins. I don’t see the UCONN effect (where everyone complains they are bad for the sport because they are historically dominant) happening in golf. Dominance is great for golf. And so are first-time winners who might not be in the spotlight as much. I think we can all agree that variety leads to growth.
4) Let’s talk sponsorships. It isn’t always easy, we know that. The opportunities aren’t as endless as they are for the men, we know that. But LPGA rookie Jillian Hollis and Maria Fassi locked in bag deals worth talking about. Hollis became the first LPGA player to be sponsored by Monster energy drink, although they endorse a lot of female athletes including surfers, skiers, snowboarders and motocross. Women’s golf is a new space for them. For Fassi, she’s the first LPGA player to be sponsored by AT&T. Monster also sponsors Tiger and AT&T sponsors Jordan Spieth, as Golf Week’s Beth Ann Nichols reported. It feels like title sponsors and the big dollars are coming as it relates to tournaments on the LPGA. But there’s still some work to be done for players. I think we are a entering a new era where the female athlete is truly valued. And soon, if you aren’t on board with women’s athletics, you’ll be left in the dust.
All in all, it’s encouraging to see these milestones be met and this kind of news in the headlines. It’s hard sometimes to be patient, yet when you pay attention to the progress being made in women’s golf, it feels like we’re getting there! I’ll be sure to continue to highlight news of this nature moving forward. Thanks for reading. Thanks for subscribing. And thanks for being a fan of golf!
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! firstname.lastname@example.org
Still love this LPGA insight from the Power Plays newsletter. A must-read!
New episode on the pod with Henni Zuel! You’ve seen her interviewing Tiger.
I also did a quick write-up on Henni Zuel for PGA.com last week.
Madelene Sagstrom won her first LPGA event at Boca Rio last weekend.
The LPGA canceled its China event due to the outbreak of coronavirus. Yikes!
Big time news on the LPGA-LET partnership and this year’s schedule.
Tiger Woods was the only reason now-LPGA rookie Patty Tavatanakit took up golf.
The 2020 LPGA season opener was the most-watched season-opener since 2009.
Here’s a look at the Week 3 Rolex World Rankings as things intensify before Olympics.
As retirement nears, Natlie Gulbis stands out for a handful of reasons.
Just like Tiger Woods, LPGA rookie lands a Monster Energy bag sponsor.
Cristie Kerr will be an ambassador for the LPGA’s 2020 Pure Silk Championship.
Girls Junior PGA Champion Yuka Saso missed her card, but you’ll see her on tour.
Fore Golf, the new owner of LPGA International, is wasting no time on renovations.
Next stop on the LPGA? Australia! Fifteen major champions will be in the field.
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Madelene Sagstrom
Let’s use this time to get to know first-time LPGA winner Madelene Sagstrom! Her win did not come easy by any means. She nearly led wire-to-wire at Boca Rio, but the day ended in a playoff with Nasa Hataoka. On the 72nd hole, Sagstrom drained an eight-foot putt for par and was officially the winner after Hataoka three-putted for bogey. This was the second straight week Hataoka finished runner-up. Sagstrom walked away with her first trophy, a $300,000 check, and a once-in-a-lifetime memory with her boyfriend’s dad as the caddy. You can check out her full interview here.
I: On her emotions after the win: I’m still mind blown I think. It’s just one of those things that you don’t really realized it happened. I need some time and it might settle a little bit.
II: On her final round sleeping on a 54-hole lead: I’ve never been in a situation like this before so obviously it was all new to me. I didn’t know how I was going to handle it or if it was going to go my way or not. My goal today was to stay patient and do what I had done the few days before. I had already won the tournament today in my head. I had beaten my own demons and making myself proud already—shooting a 62 and then following it up with a 67 was just huge for me in general. Being up the leaderboard and putting myself in a position was a win for me. This is the icing on the cake right here.
III: On tying it up on the 17th and heading to the 18th: My mindset was fairway, fairway, fairway, fairway. On the tee box I saw the bunkers in play and the water in play. I told myself to let loose and hopefully hit the fairway. I just did—this is what I practice for. I just had to let all my feelings and thoughts aside and try to just do it.
IV: When she realized she won: I actually didn’t realize what happened at first because I didn’t know any of the scores. There were so many emotions going through my head. This is what we all dream about. This is what I dreamed about my entire career and ever since I started playing golf. It hit me hard.
V: On her caddy: It was my boyfriends dad, Alan. He thought he was going on vacation in Florida for two weeks, but I called him a few weeks before and said my normal caddy wasn’t able to come and asked if he could caddy for me. He said ‘Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t know.’ But he really stepped up and he’s done an amazing job this week. I’m so proud of him. He fought really hard because he was tired the first two days but he did a tremendous job.