New England fans of the LPGA will, for yet another year, have to travel beyond the six-state region to watch Yani Tseng, Stacy Lewis, Lexi Thompson, and other top women golfers tee it up live.
While Michael Whan would enjoy a return engagement to Boston or surrounding environs, the tour commissioner would need a corporate backer to step up with a sizable check to make that happen.
“If I think about...projects that are close for 2014, I can’t think of one that really puts us in the Boston area,” Whan told us Tuesday by phone after releasing an expanded 28-event schedule for the upcoming season. “I wish it did because that would be a great market for us.”
The closest the LPGA will come to Boston is Southampton, N.Y., when the best players in the world will compete in the U.S. Women's Open at Sebonack Golf Club. The good news for fans who choose to stay close to home is that they won’t have to leave their recliners to catch the action, with the Golf Channel and other networks providing 300 hours of television coverage, the most in LPGA history.
Indeed, with three new tournaments on the 2013 calendar, 15 of the 28 in North America, and prize money nearing $50 million, the LPGA is enjoying greater success than it has in several seasons. Just two years ago the tour was down to a bare-bones 23 competitions and pundits worried about its ability to survive the sagging economy.
Now, Whan, who expects to announce an additional West Coast event soon, is nearing his ideal number of 32 events, which would offer his members enough playing time and ensure that fans remained engaged with his tour.
“Back in 2010, we’d play a week and be gone three,” said Whan, who noted that the 2013 schedule included no three-week gaps. “ You can't build a fan following that way.”
In addition to adding a fifth major (the former Evian Masters is now The Evian), Whan put new contests in the Bahamas, Texas, and China on the docket. The tour lost two tourneys but the addition of three new ones gave the LPGA an overall net gain -- though that figure was far from sufficient to suit the ambitious Whan.
“Our momentum’s been great [but] I really believe there are 29 on our schedule so it frustrates me that we announced 28,” he said. “I’m infamous for my lack of patience so I want to be there [32 events] now....We’re a couple years away, not more than that.”
As for the drought of LPGA visits to New England, we’re at seven years and counting. Most recently, the LPGA made a pit stop in these parts in 2006, when Annika Sorenstam won the last of her 10 majors, the U.S. Women’s Open at Rhode Island’s Newport Country Club.
The Boston area last played host to the tour in 2004, when Meg Mallon won the Open at The Orchards in her native Massachusetts. Speaking of which, U.S. team captain Mallon hopes to lead her 2013 Solheim Cup team to victory at Colorado Golf Club in August.
The complete LPGA schedule for 2013 is available here.