The IX: Golf Thursday with Carly Grenfell, January 9, 2020
New details on LPGA-LET venture — Ron Sirak's 2020 Predictions — Must-click links in women's golf
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LPGA-LET Venture Partnership News
Pretty soon, I’ll have actual tournament/playing news to talk about! But as I mentioned last week, the first event of the season is right around the corner. The Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions Presented by IOA tees off next week (Jan. 16) and is followed by the first annual Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio in Boca Raton, Florida.
Outside of that, the biggest news that surfaced yesterday afternoon that I want to dive into today is more on the LPGA-LET joint venture partnership. If you need to get up to speed on that announcement, check out this press release on Golf Channel that went live at the end of November. The more I think about it, the more I think that, slowly over time, we’ll find out more details on what exactly this partnership looks like. While I’m certain the vision and long-term strategic plan is locked in, the public facing news will unfold as it happens.
The first piece of that puzzle came to fruition yesterday, and that’s that two of golf’s leading organizations, the R&A and the men’s European Tour, are fully backing this deal. This is a really assuring step in the equation—because the more bodies that are bought in, the better. It would honestly be pretty tough for the LPGA to turn around everything on the LET by itself. It’s similar to how the PGA TOUR and LPGA have started negotiating TV rights deals together. It’s a team effort.
“The European Tour has already had the opportunity to host events involving LET members and we’ve seen their talent and drive first-hand. Looking ahead to our 2020 schedule, we have added another new and exciting co-sanctioned event with the LET in Sweden and are pursuing similar opportunities in other markets. The women professionals bring a different dynamic and fan base to the game – all of which improves our sport – and we look forward to building a strong women’s professional presence through this new collaborative approach.” (via LPGA.com)
I think the big thing to takeaway here is that they’ve already added another co-sanctioned event in Sweden. It’s really encouraging to see progress this early on in the relationship, and I have a feeling this momentum will help dictate what else happens over the next six to 12 months. And not only that, being able to show signs of buy-in from other entities is going to make it a much easier sell in the end. The more people that get on board, the more that will follow.
While the LPGA might have been the first organization to reach out to the LET in an effort to create an even stronger entity, LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan always knew he could count on the support of others. “It’s exciting to see so many stakeholders in the game give their attention and their support to rebuilding a stronger women’s professional tour in Europe,” said Whan. “This significant commitment by The R&A and the European Tour is an immediate, important endorsement of the vision for the new LPGA-LET partnership.” (via LPGA.com)
An important endorsement is right. I spoke to Henni Zuel before the holiday break, who formerly played on the LET before retiring due to injury in 2015, and she had some really insightful things to say about this new venture as well. Zuel was the youngest-ever player to compete on the LET as an amateur at age 13 and now works at GOLFTV as a commentator and the main interviewer of Tiger Woods (what a job). Her podcast episode is going to be coming out soon so I hope you’ll listen! But in the meantime, here’s what she had to say about it.
“I have a huge amount of respect for Mike Whan and the work that he’s done with the LPGA. The way that he markets the girls and has produced so many more playing opportunities for them has been incredible. And like you said, the LET has been struggling so to have Mike involved with the tour, he’s one of the best salesmen out there, I’m sure that he can create more playing opportunities. I feel like that’s the thing that’s really needed. We can all say we’d like to play for more money, but if we aren’t playing, we aren’t playing for anything. So hopefully they can increase the number of tournaments on the tour, especially in mainland Europe. That’s really fallen off the cliff the last few years. Collaboratively, I hope they can just get the stories of the girls out there and how hard they work similar to how he’s done with the LPGA. I think that’s a real win.”
The storytelling side of her thoughts hasn’t really been talked about much at this point. Just scroll down to the Tweet of the Week and you’ll know why these players deserve to have their stories be told. Up to this point, the deal has mainly just been the x’s and o’s surrounding tournaments and sponsors and prize money. I’m excited to see merely the increased publicity that LET gets from this collaboration and what other up and coming stars we start to hear about. I rarely see stories about the LET online even when I’m just going through news articles for this newsletter each week, so there’s definite room for growth. I can’t say it enough—it’s a huge win all around.
This Week in Women’s Golf
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Still love this LPGA insight from the Power Plays newsletter. A must-read!
LPGA.com announces more details on the LET-LPGA joint venture.
The PGA of America announced it’s Women’s PGA Professional Player of the Year.
Golfer’s Writers Association names Jin Young Ko female player of the year.
Michelle Wie is still rehabbing her wrist, not quite ready for season opener.
Inbee Park and Brooke Henderson are the final two in the Player of the Decade.
LPGA players are pledging aid to the people effected by the Australia wildfires.
Mike Whan is ready to take the LPGA up another notch over the next decade.
The No. 1 players in the world on the LPGA and PGA TOUR use completely different drivers. Here’s the science behind it.
Morgan Pressel raised $1 million for cancer—the disease that took her mom’s life.
One of the hardest parts about life after tour? Landing a job interview.
Siyun Liu could become first female to earn her card on PGA TOUR China Q-school.
Charlotte Thomas followed an unusual path to get to the LPGA.
Will this Nigerian 13-year-old be taking the golf world by storm soon? Seems that way.
Who is the LPGA rookie to watch in 2020? Golf Channel gives us a breakdown.
Tweets of the Week
Five at The IX: Ron Sirak
At the start of a new year, it’s always fun to set goals and sit down to really think about what you want to make or see out of the next 365 days. Similar to how I gave my 2020 predictions last week, I wanted to add a few more to the collection—this time from Ron Sirak, who is a long-time Golf writer and Golf Channel contributor covering the LPGA through all its ups and downs. He takes a crack at what’s potentially to come in the new decade and what he hopes to see from Commissioner Mike Whan following his 10-year anniversary with the LPGA.
I. On what he thinks Whan’s New Year’s resolution should be: More of the same! He should market, market, market. Last year, Hannah Green led the Women’s PGA, Hinako Shibuno won the British, Suzann Pettersen at the Solheim Cup, Sei Young Kim at the CME Tour Championship—they all won significant events with the last putt, on the last hole, as the last players on the course. That’s entertainment and it doesn’t get any better than that. Keep banging that drum!
II. On who he thinks will be the breakout star in 2020: Over the last 15 months, Nelly Korda has won three times on the LPGA, once on the LET, went 3-0-1 in majors last year, had two Top 10s at majors this year and she’s still only 21 years old. I’m looking for multiple wins from her this year including a major championship. Her career is arcing up no doubt about it.
III. On the most intriguing storyline to watch on the LPGA in 2020: I want Lexi Thompson to have a year with no drama. I want no penalties, I want no lost passports, I want her to go out there with no distractions and just show us how good she can be. She’s continuing to grow as a person; has taken enormous strides in the last couple years that way and I think she’s growing as a player. I want to see her play free and easy and not have to deal with any off-course controversy.