July 18, 2007

LPGA adds Kapalua Classic to schedule

Expanding in the Pacific, the LPGA adds an event in Maui

The Bay Course at Kapalua Resort will host the new LPGA event.

The Bay Course at Kapalua Resort will host the new LPGA event.

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. - The LPGA is expanding its presence in the Pacific, adding a third tournament in Hawaii in 2008, this one an event on the Bay Course at the Kapalua Resort in Maui that will help the tour transition to its Asian swing. The 72-hole event in October will precede LPGA tournaments in Korea, Japan and Thailand.

"We are excited about adding the Kapalua LPGA Classic to the 2008 LPGA schedule," said LPGA Commissioner Carolyn F. Bivens. "The combination of the great LPGA fans of Hawaii, a spectacular venue and the best golfers in the world will create a memorable week for all." The tournament will carry a $1.5 million purse.

Next up for Kapalua is finding a title sponsor for the tournament. "We at Kapalua Resort are thrilled to bring this top women's golf event to Maui," said Gary Planos, Kapalua Resort's senior vice president of resort operations. "World-class golf is a tradition at Kapalua Resort and we are looking forward to the best female professional golfers competing here in October 2008." The PGA Tour plays the Mercedes Championship on the Planatation Course at Kapalua.

The LPGA season starts with the SBS Open at the Turtle Bay Resort in February and is followed the next week by the Fields Open at Ko Olina Golf Club. This year the LPGA season concludes with the Samsung World Championship in California followed by stops in Korea, Thailand and Japan before the tour return to the United States for the Mitchell Company Tournament of Champions and the season-ending ADT Championship.

With nearly four dozen Koreans on the LPGA tour and with the intense interest in Japan for Ai Miyazato an expanded presence in the Pacific seems like a logical business move. Korean TV money is the single largest revenue stream for the tour, and video rights fees paid by Japanese outlets generates a lot of money for the tour.

Given the quality of the LPGA product right now -- young Americans like Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lincicome, established stars like Cristie Kerr and Juli Inkster, emerging stars like Suzann Pettersen, a compelling and likeable new No. 1 in Lorena Ochoa and perhaps the tour's greatest player ever in Annika Sorenstam give the LPGA a ton of story lines. One of the youngsters -- Pressel -- is expected to announce an endorsement deal with Kapalua, further enhancing the relationship between the tour and the resort.