Hawaii must wait for return of LPGA


POSTED: Friday, February 20, 2009

Michelle Wie performed impressively at Turtle Bay last week as a full-fledged member of the LPGA, but no encore in Hawaii is on the horizon. The islands were host to three LPGA Tour events last year, but none is slated to return in the near future. Unless other sponsors step up to the tee, which is unlikely, the next tour-sanctioned event in Hawaii will have to await economic recovery.

The Fields Corp., a Japanese entertainment company, ended its sponsorship of the Fields Open at Ko Olina after completion of that tournament last year, explaining that it wanted to concentrate its marketing efforts in Japan. The Kapalua LPGA Classic remains on the tour's calendar for October, but no sponsor has emerged since ADT Security Services stepped aside after last year's event.

At Turtle Bay, the Seoul Broadcasting System, South Korea's largest TV network, announced that the SBS Open at Turtle Bay would be its last. The tour announced a five-year agreement with JoongAng Broadcasting Corp., a Korean cable station, to televise tour events and sponsor events in Phoenix next month and in Southern California through 2014.

“;It's no secret that the road ahead, particularly 2009, is going to test our mettle,”; LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens said last November. The economic crisis has created challenges, she said, not only for sports organizations, but for “;every business enterprise of any kind in all corners around the world.”;

The average purse provided by sponsors in LPGA events is $1.77 million. It comes as no surprise that companies give sponsorships a low priority during the economic crisis - even when Wie's star power is there to bolster TV viewership.