The recession reached into LPGA headquarters Wednesday when the cash-strapped tour eliminated the deputy commissioner position and laid off seven other staffers, according to sources familiar with the situation. The only eliminated position confirmed by the tour was that of Libba Galloway, a lawyer who was elevated to the newly created position of deputy commissioner by then-commissioner Carolyn Bivens.
"Due to the changes in our tournament business and other effects of the world-wide recession, the LPGA has eliminated the position of Deputy Commissioner effective December 31, 2009," acting Commissioner Marty Evans said in a statement. "Libba Galloway, a key contributor to the LPGA for nearly a decade, will transition out of the association at the end of the year. We thank Libba for her leadership, commitment and the countless contributions that she has provided us."
Chief communications officer David Higdon would not comment on whether there were other job eliminations. But sources familiar with the situation say they will be announced publicly on Thursday so that the affected staffers have time to share the news with their families.
Given the drop in revenue for the tour, the layoffs were viewed as inevitable and had long been rumored within LPGA headquarters. The timing of the move spares the new commissioner the burden of coming into office having already created ill will by letting people go. The search for a new commissioner is in its second round of interviews and a decision could come by the end of the month.
One of the revenue streams for the LPGA is the 6 percent it gets from each tournament purse. Total prize money in 2008, when there were 34 tournaments, was $60.3 million. This year, with 27 events, the total figure plunged to $47.6 million, a drop of $12.7 million, which meant $762,000 less for the tour. The prospects for next year are for even fewer tournaments, and many of the events that have re-signed for 2010 have done so at a lower purse, meaning even less operating revenue.
The thinking inside tour headquarters is that the jobs eliminated will not be filled by the new commissioner and were necessary staff reductions for budget reason. Sources in Daytona Beach also say this is not likely the end of belt-tightening at the tour.
-- Ron Sirak