January 27, 2009

Ginn Pulls Out Of Golf

(AP) -- Ginn Resorts is ending all golf sponsorships immediately, sending two tournaments into an uncertain future.

The real estate company said Wednesday it no longer will host or produce its two remaining events - the LPGA's Ginn Open and the Champions Tour Ginn Championship. It also will drop its sponsorship of Cristie Kerr, the last player wearing the company's apparel after Annika Sorenstam's retirement.

"This wasn't something that was done lightly," Robert Gidel, Ginn Development's president and CEO, told The Associated Press. "We got to a point where we had to give up on hope as a strategy. We just now have to figure out what's in the best interest of our people, and I think that's where a lot of companies are these days."

Ginn said late last year that it was dropping the PGA Tour's sur Mer Classic because of the ailing real estate market. But the LPGA event in Reunion, Fla., and the Champions Tour stop in Palm Coast, Fla., were both to be played on Ginn courses.

Last week, though, Ginn ended its real estate sales and marketing operations "due to the loss of revenue" that was the primary source of funding the purses and buying television coverage for the LPGA and Champions Tour events.

"We did the best we could, but the economy got the best of us," Gidel said.

Losing the Ginn Open would figure to be a major hit to the LPGA. The event's $2.5 million purse was the third-largest on that tour in 2008, behind only the U.S. Women's Open and the Evian Masters.

If the Ginn Open is not replaced or restructured quickly, that would mean the LPGA Tour will offer only 30 events this year, with nearly $7.5 million less in prize money than players vied for last season.