Two major announcements last week got the LPGA season off to a rocky start

Two major announcements last week got the LPGA season off to a rocky start

In a part of the world known for
amazing waves, we certainly rode
some big ones on the North Shore
of Oahu at the LPGA’s 2009 season

When I arrived on Feb. 10, I
was greeted by the unofficial news
that the LPGA tour, already four events lighter on its schedule
than a year ago, was ending its 15-year relationship with SBS,
the title sponsor of last week’s event and the exclusive holder
of the tour’s Korean broadcast rights.

Two days later, in Los
Angeles, it was announced that JBC had come up with a sweet
little package to become the tour’s new Korean broadcaster.

That’s great news at a much-needed time,
but at what cost? SBS
president and CEO Sang Y. Chun said that although he was not
upset at being outbid by the smaller JBC, he was steamed about
the way he was treated by the LPGA, to the extent that he said
SBS would “absolutely not” sponsor the event at Turtle Bay
after 2009.

For me this is another example of what’s wrong at
the LPGA. Even when they do something good, like securing a
more lucrative TV deal, they go about it in the wrong way. The
tour can’t continue to carelessly cast aside long-time supporters,
business partners and sponsors. It’s a mistake from a business
standpoint and a matter of common courtesy.

The bigger news was the LPGA’s announcement
of a 10-year partnership with Golf
Channel, making the cable network the exclusive
U.S. home of the tour and now, really,
for all of golf, including the PGA, Champions,
Nationwide, European and LPGA tours.

Exclusive coverage
of the Solheim Cup through 2019 and at least one of the LPGA
majors was also part of the deal, for which the LPGA was paid
a rights fee.

My first thought was, When will Golf Channel
find time to air all this golf? Page Thompson, president
of the network, says every event will be accommodated either
live or on tape, with international events, produced by outside
companies, tape delayed. While it is a huge advantage for the
LPGA to have a consistent home and consistent look, I hope
its tournaments will not be buried in off-peak scheduling.

Even more, I hope the LPGA will carefully nurture these new
partnerships. They aren’t just business.

Dottie Pepper a 17-year LPGA vet and analyst for NBC and Golf Channel, welcomes letters at [email protected].