October 15, 2008

ADT Quits As LPGA Sponsor

ADT, title sponsor for the season-ending $1 million first-prize ADT Championship, has decided to withdraw as the event's sponsor

Lorena Ochoa took home the $1 million first prize at last year's event.

Lorena Ochoa took home the $1 million first prize at last year's event.

The $1 million first prize ADT Championship, the first event fully owned by the LPGA, has lost the title sponsor for the season-ending event after this year's competition in November and is expected to return to the tour's schedule in the first quarter of 2010. The tournament which will most likely be played in February, will retain its current limited-field, multiple-cut format, but be played at a venue to be determined and hopefully with a new sponsor. Currently, the ADT is played at Trump International in West Palm Beach, Fla.

"Part of our strategic plan targeted for 2010, with our TV contracts expiring in '09, is to have a season-opening event and a season-ending event," LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens told Golf World by telephone from Hawaii where the inaugural Kapalua LPGA Classic began Thursday.

Bivens said she was in discussions with several potential title sponsors and that the sponsor would likely impact where the event is played. "It could be in Florida, it could be in California," she said. It clearly has to be in a warm-weather place where golf can be played early in the year.

Sources familiar with the situation told Golf World the leading candidate for the new season-ending event was the Stanford International Pro-Am, which made its tour debut last April at the Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort & Club in Aventura, Fla.

A spokesperson for the tournament said a date for the 2009 event has yet to be determined, opening the way for it to move to the end of next year. Since Stanford Financial is a Houston-based company it would seem likely the tournament would be moved closer to the corporation's headquarters in Texas since it will serve as a high-profile tournament ripe for corporate entertaining.

With the ADT Championship gone for 2009, the Ginn Tribute in Charleston, S.C., also out and the Fields Open in Hawaii and the Safeway International in Phoenix without sponsors, the LPGA appears as if it will fall short of the 33 tournaments it had this year.

"The best-case and worst-case scenarios are that we will be plus or minus two or three events next year," Bivens said. "The next 30 to 45 days is a critical time," she said, adding that she still expected to release the 2009 schedule a day or two before this year's ADT Championship, which begins Nov. 20. "In this economy, until you have a signed contract nothing is buttoned up," Bivens said.

Bivens stated strongly the Phoenix event would return in '09, meaning it will likely be subsidized by the LPGA. In addition to the ADT Championship, the LPGA co-owns the Solheim Cup with the Ladies European Tour and beginning in 2009 will fully own the McDonald's LPGA Championship.

"I feel good about the LPGA as a brand, and I feel good about the return on investment for our sponsors, but no one can feel comfortable right now about the economy no matter what business you are in," Bivens said.

While Bivens said the desire was to have a season-ending event with a field of more than 100 players – again a description consistent with the Stanford tournament – she said the tour would stick with the current ADT Championship format when it returns under a new name in 2010.

The ADT has a 32-player field determined by a points standing with some tournament winners automatically qualifying. The field is cut to 16 after 36 holes with all scores reset at zero and is reduced to eight after the third round with again all scores reset. The final eight play for a $1 million first prize with the runner-up getting $100,000.

"We won't tamper with success," Bivens said about the fan-favorite format. "We love the format." Now all they need is a sponsor and a golf course.