The IX: Golf Thursday with Carly Grenfell, March 19, 2020
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Looking Back and Looking Ahead
Hey everyone! Hope you’re all well, staying safe and practicing your best social distancing. I didn’t expect to not have any big updates in women’s golf at this point in the season, and it looks like it’s going to remain that way for a few months. So we’re going to get creative until we have golf to watch again! First, I pulled together a timeline of events in golf that COVID-19 has impacted.
When I put this together, I couldn’t believe the first LPGA cancellations were at the start of February. I don’t think anyone really expected it to accelerate into what it has today, and it’s still changing. But on a more positive note, LPGA Commissioner has truly shined throughout this whole ordeal. I feel he’s been an incredible leader and spokesperson and has yet to make a wrong decision or say the wrong thing. I’m sure it’s made many people realize how lucky women’s golf is to have him!
Timeline of Events
March 18, 2020
PGA Tour Latinoamerica golfer becomes first known player to test positive for Coronavirus.
March 17, 2020
PGA of America postpones the 2020 PGA Championship.
PGA of America releases statement on the 2020 KitchenAid Senior PGA.
PGA of America and Ryder Cup USA confirm reports that changing 2020 Ryder Cup dates are inaccurate.
PGA Jr. League gives an update on COVID-19.
The PGA Tour cancels four additional events.
The USGA cancels it’s first two championships.
Topgolf closes all locations across the United States.
March 16, 2020
Augusta National closing to Coronavirus, sources confirm to Golf Digest.
PGA of America follows NCAA mandates and cancels the PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship.
PGA of America postpones 2020 PGA Professional Championship.
March 15, 2020
Nextgengolf cancels the 2020 NCCGA spring season.
March 13, 2020
Augusta National postpones 2020 Masters, Augusta National Women’s Amateur and Drive, Chip and Putt.
The USGA announces it has not made any decisions to alter its championship schedule.
March 12, 2020
March 11, 2020
European Tour cancels the Hero Indian Open, which becomes the fourth tournament to be cancelled or postponed by the tour.
March 6, 2020
European Tour cancels Kenya Open over coronavirus.
February 10, 2020
LPGA cancels two tournaments in Asia due to coronavirus concerns.
Outside of COVID-19 and everything it has impacted in golf, I thought I would recap everything happy that’s happened in women’s golf this year! Let’s start with the events that were played in 2020: the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio, ISPS Handa Vic Open and the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. (By the way—it’s actually pretty crazy to think that some players still haven’t even started their season yet!)
Gaby Lopez: In the first event of the year, Lopez secured the victory in Lake Buena Vista in a three-way playoff between Nasa Hataoka and Inbee Park. This was just her second LPGA win and first since 2018 when she won the Blue Bay LPGA.
Madelene Sagstrom: At the Gainbridge LPGA Boca Rio, Sagstrom secured her first-ever LPGA victory. Nasa Hataoka, who contended the week before as well, could have forced a playoff on the final hole but missed an easy putt on the 18th. Worth noting is that Sagstrom’s boyfriend’s day was on her bag that week instead of her full-time caddy! What a great memory on top of locking in win #1.
Hee Young Park: Another week on the LPGA, another playoff for all the marbles, this time between Hye-Jin Choi and So Yeon Ryu. Park has been on tour for 12 years now including three wins and 40 (!!) career Top 10s. Even more interesting – Park went through a seven-year drought before winning in Australia.
Inbee Park: An LPGA season without Inbee Park in the winners circle just wouldn’t feel right. She’s tried to retire a couple times, but she keeps coming back for more, this time for another shot at Olympic gold. Park started her 2020 season much earlier than usual for this reason and it seemed to pay off.
TV Rights Deals
Announced earlier this month, the PGA Tour helped negotiate TV rights for the LPGA for the next nine years. As I understand it, it’s an extended version of what we are used to seeing. In addition to programming on Golf Channel, there will be more coverage NBC and CBS each year outside of events like the U.S. Women’s Open, KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and the AIG Women’s British Open that are already on network television.
Specifically, the TOUR secured the long-term extension of the LPGA/GOLF Channel partnership (2022-2030) with ancillary programming, including a season preview, season review and Road to the CME Group Tour Championship. In addition, GOLF Channel will provide dedicated programming for the Symetra Tour each year, as well as enhanced marketing and promotional assets and expanded benefits for LPGA sponsors. (via LPGA.com)
In February, the LPGA also locked up a five-year deal with the LPGA’s official media rights partner in Korea—JoongAng Broadcasting Corporation (JBC). The reach abroad is tremendous for the LPGA and the significance is just as awesome as it was before. Whan embracing the LPGA as a global tour is one of the smartest things he’s ever done. This was the largest media rights investment in the LPGA history.
J Golf will have exclusive broadcast rights, which include terrestrial, cable, satellite, IPTV, broadband and DMB, within Korea for nearly all LPGA Tour events through 2014. JBC also will underwrite an event on the 2010-2014 LPGA Tour schedules in Southern California; the venue and tournament name will be announced at a later date. In addition, JBC has assumed title sponsorship rights to the 2009 Phoenix LPGA International Presented by Mirassou Winery; the official event name will be announced in the near future. Finally, JBC also has the rights to create and operate the official Korean-language Web site of the LPGA. (via LPGA.com)
LPGA, LET, R&A Joint Venture
This was probably my favorite news to come out of this season! These three associations joining forces will be powerful for years to come in significantly increasing playing opportunities, prize money and overall visibility. In 2020, the LET saw record-setting prize money and and seven new events—and that was only 90 days after the deal was announced. This partnership will continue to trend!
Golf Down South
New to the 2020 schedule, the LPGA embarked on a Florida swing this year, which includes two brand new events: the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio (the first event of the season) and the Pelican Women’s Championship in Belleair, Florida to be played this coming May (knock on wood). Also worth noting on the 2020 schedule—a record-breaking $75.1 million in total prize money. This prize money includes an increase in purse at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (up $450,000) and ANA Inspiration (up $100,000).
Maternity Policy Updates
There are quite a few moms on the LPGA these days, the latest being Michelle Wie who recently announced her pregnancy. There’s also Stacy Lewis, Brittany Lincicome, Brittany Lang and Sara Jane Smith who are first-time mothers. About a month ago, the USGA made an update to its maternity policy and it’s absolutely worth bringing up again! Although it bums me out players were essentially penalized for taking time off due to pregnancy before, I’m glad something has finally been done about it. To prevent world rankings dropping immensely while players go on maternity leave, the USGA announced that female golfers will now have their Rolex Women’s Golf Ranking or World Amateur Golf Ranking “frozen” once they go on maternity leave.
What isn’t there to look forward to? This hiatus is probably making any golf fan realize that’ll never take the sport for granted again! We have pretty much an entire season to look forward to, as well some combined events (potentially) and our first look at LPGA rookies or other players who haven’t competed in 2020 yet. But what’s even more exciting to think about is seeing how golf overcomes what’s been handed to them. It hasn’t been easy. There’s still probably a long road ahead. But I’m confident the right stakeholders will step up, the players will come together and the sport will be even stronger than it was before. It can’t be easy being Mike Whan or any LPGA player right now. I don’t know what it’s like to be in their shoes, but I do know I’m sending all my good vibes and positivity there way!
This Week in Women’s Golf
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New episode of Fairway Tales is live with Isabelle Shee, who started her own sock company—the world’s first planet friendly performance sock.
When your rookie season is stopped before it even got started.
There are actually LPGA players in action this week—and you can bet on them.
Mike Whan’s stock is soaring during uncertain times.
Whan considers combining events in wake up latest cancellations.
Mike Whan leading LPGA through uncharted waters.
The LPGA is postponing its next three events.
When will we get back to playing golf on the LPGA and PGA Tour?
The R&A releases a statement surrounding the latest COVID-19 updates.
An important year for women’s sports paused by Coronavirus.
Golf continues on women’s mini Cactus Tour.
Nikki B joins Golf Channel as latest guest co-host for School of Golf.
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Mike Whan
I hope you’re not tired of hearing from Mr. Whan these days! This is a must watch piece from him following the latest cancellations and postponement of tournaments due to COVID-19. This includes the first LPGA Major of the year, the ANA Inspiration, which probably wasn’t an easy pill for him to swallow along with many others. Whan has been applauded a lot during his tenure, but he really is making an even bigger name for himself now. When the going gets tough, great leaders get tougher and shine even brighter!