by Jeff Skinner
The past few weeks I was lucky enough to attend two LPGA tournaments, first at The Sybase Classic in New Jersey and this past week The Corning Classic in New York. I left both with a feeling that these events are more than just golf tournaments. Certainly they are professional golf tournaments and they showcase the best women golfers in the world. Both tournaments had very competitive fields and they each came down to the last few holes on Sunday to determine the winner. These women are very skilled and can play all the shots and their competitive fires burn just as hot as the men of the PGA Tour. In fact, they play a game that is more similar to the everyday player. Their courses play about the same length as “the whites” on many courses and are not stretched to seven thousand yards like the PGA Tour is now. While they have plenty of long drivers on the LPGA, most of the players drive it a lot shorter than the PGA pros, just like us. The LPGA has a very good product they are trying to sell. The LPGA has felt the effects of these challenging economic times just like everyone else. They have lost sponsorships, are playing for less money and tournaments have been dropped from the schedule. They have taken proactive steps to help keep them a viable entertainment alternative. One of the actions that Commissioner Carolyn Bivens presented to the ladies is to focus on “Outside the Ropes”, that is to take care of all the fans and the sponsors. They are certainly making an effort. Each and every player signed every autograph, posed for every picture, shook each hand and chatted it up with any person close enough to talk to. They couldn’t be more accommodating in every way. An LPGA event is great bargain and wonderful experience for all ages.
The LPGA gives many professionals an opportunity to earn a wonderful living. At the same time they raise serious money for charity at each event. At the Sybase Classic, Val Skinner (no relation) and her “Life” (LPGA Pros in the Fight to Eradicate Breast Cancer) initiative celebrated ten years of fighting breast cancer. At the tournament there was the “Big Pink” mobile van that promotes awareness of breast cancer. On the day following the tournament, twenty eight LPGA professionals played in The Life Event, a charity tournament that raised over $500,000 in one day. It is the largest single day golf event fundraiser for breast cancer. Val Skinner and her LIFE program have donated over $5.6 million to fight breast cancer. At the Corning Classic they have been donating to charity for thirty one years. Corning is a small community of around eleven thousand people and they have supported the Classic and the LPGA for years. The people of Corning and all the volunteers are sad to see the Classic end this year but all of them were hopeful that when the economics of the area change, maybe the LPGA could return. The Corning Classic has raised over $5.3 million over its lifespan. It is difficult for smaller locales to sustain any big league sport but here in Corning it has been strongly supported by the community since 1979.
The LPGA is as entertaining as any golf tour around. There are interesting personalities and superbly skilled golfers. They offer a great golf product and do more than their share to help each community.
Here are some photos I took at the final Corning Classic.