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Published: Sunday, 7/3/2005

Playoff system to lead to prize of $1 million payoff

BLADE STAFF, WIRE REPORTS
Rachel Hetherington, who won the Farr Classic in 2002, will be among the LPGA pros gunning for a spot in the new playoff system which begins next year.
Rachel Hetherington, who won the Farr Classic in 2002, will be among the LPGA pros gunning for a spot in the new playoff system which begins next year.
ZAPOTOSKY / BLADE Enlarge

The LPGA Tour has announced a year-long competitive structure beginning next season that will result in pro golf s first playoff system and the largest first-place prize in the history of women s golf.

The LPGA Playoffs at The ADT will be played for the first time at the end of the 2006 season with a first-place prize of $1 million.

The LPGA will re-engineer its tournament schedule to create the postseason playoff competition. The new competitive format will include a regular season that splits the LPGA schedule into two halves, with 15 players from each half and two wild-card players qualifying for LPGA Playoffs at The ADT and the season-ending final event, the ADT Championship, using a performance-based point system throughout the year.

The playoffs will take place over the first three days of the ADT Championship, which will feature 32 players, up from 30 in previous years. At the conclusion of the three-day playoffs, the finalists will compete in a dramatic 18-hole, final-round shootout.

The environment in which the LPGA competes will only intensify over the next five years, demanding the constant pursuit of entertainment innovations, said outgoing tour commissioner Ty Votaw. LPGA Playoffs at The ADT is an innovation that will energize our year-long schedule and generate significant fan and media attention throughout the year as players compete for playoff spots and the speculation about who s in and who s out builds throughout the season.

In this new structure, regular-season LPGA tournaments will be categorized as follows:

  • Major events: These consist of the four major championships on the LPGA schedule. Winners of these four events automatically qualify for the playoffs. Top finishers in these events gain points toward the relevant half of the season with points doubled in the majors the Kraft Nabisco Championship; McDonald s LPGA Championship, U.S. Women s Open, and the Weetabix Women s British Open.

  • Points events: Consist of most full-field events, which will serve as the backbone of the playoffs qualification system. Top finishers earn points toward each relevant half of the season, but winners do not automatically qualify for the playoffs.

  • Winner events: Consist of most limited-field events and select full-field events. Winners of these events automatically qualify for the playoffs, but no additional points are earned, setting up potential all-or-nothing scenarios in the final holes of these tournaments.

  • Asia swing: Consists of events played in Asia (currently Korea and Japan). The player who achieves the best combined performance in the Asia tournaments will qualify for the playoffs. The best combined performance in the Asia events will be based on the total aggregate points earned.

    The new format is expected to add greater relevance to tournaments early in each half of the season and give full-field events near the close of each half a greater profile.

    We are excited about LPGA Playoffs at The ADT, said Heather Daly-Donofrio, a player who serves as president of the tour s executive committee.

    The LPGA is thrilled to be the first in golf to have a playoff system that leads to a season finale championship.

    This is a great fan-focused initiative that should ignite increased excitement at every tour stop.

    Carolyn Vesper Bivens was recently named commissioner-elect of the LPGA Tour. She will be the tour s first-ever female commissioner when she replaces Votaw, who announced his resignation on Jan. 7 but remains in a transitional capacity.

    Bivens, 52, joins the LPGA after serving as president and chief operating officer of Initiative Media North America, which claims to be the largest media services and consulting company in the U.S.

    Prior to that, she had an 18-year career with USA Today. She was part of the newspaper s original launch team and rose to the position of senior vice president and associate publisher.

    Becoming commissioner of the LPGA, one of the most successful, recognizable and well-respected organizations in the world, is truly one of the highest honors of my professional life, she said. I am thrilled about the opportunity to work with some of the most extraordinary athletes and golf professionals in the world to continue the organization s upward momentum.

    Although an avid golfer, Bivens admits she has no background in sports administration and doesn t feel that her media background was solely responsible for her election to the post.

    I m a business person more than a media person, she said. My background really is business, sales, advertising [and] operations. I would say that this organization isn t just in the business of golf. [The LPGA is] in the business of sports and entertainment and I think my business background lends itself to that.

    Bivens is expected to join the LPGA staff by the end of July and officially take over as commissioner after the Solheim Cup matches in September.

    Previous LPGA commissioners include Ray Volpe (1975-82), John Laupheimer (1982-88), William Blue (1988-90), Charlie Mechem (1991-95), Jim Ritts (1996-99) and Votaw (1999-present).



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