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Published: Wednesday, 7/19/2006

LPGA Tour is following the money

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Money always talks and the LPGA Tour's new commissioner doesn't hide the fact that she is always listening.

You may have noticed an item in yesterday's "Sports Briefly" segment about organizers of the ShopRite LPGA Classic considering a lawsuit against the tour to keep the tournament's current dates on the LPGA schedule.

The tour announced that a new event, the Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika Sorenstam, would be played next year near Charleston, S.C., and would be given the early-June dates currently held by ShopRite, which recently staged its 21st annual tourney.

The ShopRite, a New Jersey event, claims to raise more money for charity than any other LPGA event, but its purse this year was $1.5 million. The new Ginn Tribute will offer a $2.6 million purse and, along with another Ginn Resorts-sponsored event in Florida, will represent more than $5 million in combined purse money.

New commissioner Carolyn Bivens said during a visit to Toledo last week that "the transition and transformation of the LPGA's business model" was her top priority.

"We have to get the organization finally on firm footing financially," she said. "We have to make sure this organization survives in the long term with enough tournaments and enough prize money to allow our members to make a viable living and to afford them basic business benefits, such as health care and retirement benefits, that haven't been available in the past.

"Somebody has to stand up and say, 'This is where we're going and this is how we're going to get there.' That's my job. I really don't like controversy, but I didn't take the job to be voted Miss Congeniality.

"We have new sponsors and new corporate partners on the radar and the most difficult thing that any business deals with is how you bring along partners and sponsors that have been in place for a long time but might not fit the new business model as well."

Part of that business model is a larger tournament sanction fee that is now in effect for new LPGA events and, starting in 2008, will apply to existing tournaments that extend agreements.

The Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic presented by Kroger, for example, pays an annual sanction fee of about $20,000 to the LPGA. Starting in 2008, that fee will jump to $100,000, although Bivens pointed out the tour will set up a payment schedule over time to lessen the blow to existing tournaments.

And what would happen if a new sponsor wanted the 22-year-old Farr Classic's July dates? Never forget that money talks.

One thing is for certain. When directors of existing tournaments discuss the "new" LPGA and its new commissioner, one thing Bivens doesn't have to worry about is being named Miss Congeniality.

TWDGA MOVES: The Toledo Women's District Golf Association stroke play championship, originally scheduled for last week at Valleywood, will be played July 26-28 at Toledo Country Club. The new entry deadline is Friday.

In turn, the TWDGA Seniors, which was to be held at Toledo CC, will move to Inverness Club on Sept. 15.

Valleywood, located in Swanton, was unplayable because of heavy rains and flooding.

Cathy Netter is the defending stroke play champion. She ended a run of three straight titles by Sally Robinson when she prevailed in last summer's event.

MEN'S DISTRICT: Kevin Kornowa of Highland Meadows will begin defense of his Toledo District Golf Association's stroke play championship tomorrow at Inverness Club. The 72-hole event begins with a field of 84 players and concludes Sunday.

Kornowa won with a 6-under-par 282 total last year at Belmont Country Club, beating runner-up Joe Wright from Fostoria CC by 11 shots.

A 36-hole senior championship will be staged during the first two rounds. The field will be cut to low 20 scores and ties after 36 holes and any seniors who make that cut are eligible to continue play in the 72-hole event.

Fred Grimm of Inverness is the defending seniors champ.

CHIP SHOTS: Caroline Powers, 15, of Bowling Green recently finished second by two strokes in the Ohio Junior Girls Championship with rounds of 72-72. Her 144 total was 11 shots better than the third-place finisher.

Contact Dave Hackenberg at:

dhack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6398.



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