by Jeff Skinner
LPGA commissioner Michael Whan has been hard at work. The Commish recently announced a new, improved and longer schedule for the LPGA and yesterday came out with another significant announcement from the LPGA.
Starting in 2014 the LPGA will host a new world team competition titled The International Crown. Played in years opposite the Solheim Cup, the International Crown will feature eight countries of four teammates in three rounds of Four Ball matches with the top five countries advancing on to Sunday Singles play. All points earned in the early rounds carry over and the cumulative total will determine the overall International Crown Champion.
Whan and his troops have hit a home run here, no a grand slam. Team play, especially team match play is hot in golf right now. The Ryder Cup shows that and one of the biggest events in women’s golf, The Solheim Cup excludes most of the top foreign players on the LPGA. This format allows all the Asian countries to get in the mix. Also, with golf back in the Olympics, the LPGA will be striking while the iron is hot with a sort of mini-Olympic tournament. And the eight countries can change each year as they are based on points from the Rolex World Rankings. Each country gets points for the players that are highly ranked and countries are bound to move in and out of the rankings.
And Whan made another smart move by scheduling the Crown in mid-season in July to keep it away from the hype of the season ending FedEx Cup and NFL Sundays in the fall. The ladies should command a pretty large stage and the players are thrilled to have such an exciting event that can capitalize on the interest in Olympic style events.
The players are thrilled to have an event of this nature. The top American and number three in the world, Stacy Lewis can’t wait, “Our Tour is so global and we need this type of event. People always want to know why golfers from Asia are so good. Well, now we can see how all the countries stack up. The more we can showcase our Tour around the world, the better. Representing your country is the ultimate thing. Getting announced on the first tee when you are representing the USA, it doesn’t get any better than that. It’s a goal of mine to be in the event.”
“It’s like preparing for the Olympics,” said Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng, of Taiwan. “In Taiwan and in Asia, we don’t have a team event like this. This is a good opportunity for us to play for our countries. It’s really going to be awesome. Right now, we have three Taiwanese players that play fulltime on the LPGA Tour. Hopefully in the next two years, we can improve our junior program and get more Taiwanese players on the LPGA. This tournament will really help us with that goal.”
Mike Whan and company should be lauded for continuing to build the LPGA’s profile. While Roger Goodell battles lawsuits, Gary Bettman forces lockouts, David Stern deals with players calling him “Master” and Bud Selig is left dealing with empty seats, Mike Whan has become as an effective commissioner as there is in sport.
Whan has got it right here and it’s another huge accomplishment for the LPGA and women’s golf.