Thursday, November 19, 2009

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — The LPGA Championship will be held at Locust Hill golf course in suburban Rochester for one year next June, with supermarket chain Wegmans replacing McDonald's as sponsor of the season's second major.

The recession-pinched LPGA Tour is shrinking to 24 tournaments in 2010, down from 27 this year and 34 in 2008. With 13 events in the United States, it's the smallest tour schedule in nearly 40 years.

Newly named the LPGA Championship Presented by Wegmans, the $2.25 million tournament will be held from June 24 to June 27 in the suburb of Pittsford. Locust Hill has been a perennially popular LPGA Tour stop since 1977 and the Wegmans LPGA will return there in 2011.

"We are grateful to Colleen Wegman and Wegmans Food Markets for their continued commitment to the LPGA," acting commissioner Marty Evans said in a statement, "and look forward to working closely with them while concurrently continuing our discussions with potential long-term partners for the LPGA Championship."

The championship, launched in 1955, is one of four majors on the LPGA Tour. McDonald's has been involved with the event since it was founded as the McDonald's Kids Classic in 1981.

Locust Hill "has enjoyed a long history of women's golf over the last 34 years and we now have a chance to shine," said Larry Dewine, the club's president. "We hope we get record crowds."

The Wegmans LPGA estimates it drew more than 110,000 spectators in 2007 and "we're hoping the major designation" will shatter that record attendance, said tournament co-chairman Larry Kitts.

The championship lost McDonald's as a sponsor in June after Anna Nordqvist's victory at Bulle Rock Golf Course in Havre de Grace, Md. About a month ago, LPGA Tour officials asked organizers of the Locust Hill event if they could step in as a one-year replacement.

The LPGA wants to "take over this championship, own it themselves just like the PGA of America owns the PGA Championship," said Jerry Stahl, tournament co-chairman at Locust Hill. "In trying to find a corporate sponsor on a long-term basis for this championship, they just didn't have enough time to put it all together."

In July, Evans replaced LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens, who resigned under pressure as sponsors dropped tournaments in a slumping economy.

"We have made great strides in our long-term goal of building an intelligent and sustainable schedule for the LPGA Tour," Evans said.

The 93-year-old, family-owned Wegmans Food Markets Inc. is a grocery store chain with 75 outlets in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland.

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