LPGA reveals expanded 2014 schedule

Scott Halleran

An expanded schedule with more playing opportunities in North America highlight commissioner Michael Whan’s announcement at the LPGA’s season-ending Titleholders event.

LPGA commissioner Michael Whan on Friday made good on a pledge he offered when he took office in 2010: Boost the number of tour events to at least 30.

The schedule Whan unveiled ahead of Friday’s second round of the CME Group Titleholders provided that and more, with 32 official tournaments on the 2014 LPGA calendar.

"It’s certainly exciting to introduce the 2014 LPGA Tour Schedule," Whan said in a statement. "Our schedule ... creates more opportunities for our players, more coverage for our fans, and more exposure for the world’s best female golfers."

In addition to upping the number of competitions, which include three new tourneys in North America, the tour has increased prize money by more than $7 million, to a record $56 million-plus. TV coverage is also on the upswing, with 350 more hours of coverage planned for next year.

Even more good news for the women’s tour that was scuffling to remain relevant before Whan’s tenure began, was news that next season will start in January for the second straight year, with the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic kicking things off on Jan. 23.

Whan has been a huge proponent of the LPGA as a global tour but his goal  for the U.S.-based organization has been to establish more North American playing opportunities. He has done just that with the $1.8 million Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in Daly City, Calif., in April; a stop in August in Grand Rapids, Mich., for the $1.5 million Meijer LPGA Classic; and a return, after a 12-month hiatus, to Prattville, Ala., for the $1.3 million Alabama Classic in September.

Five major championships are on tap again in 2014, with the Wegmans LPGA Championship moving to Monroe Golf Club in Pittsford, N.Y.; the Women’s British Open returning to Royal Birkdale; and the U.S. Women’s Open slated for Pinehurst No. 2 the week after the men play their national championship on the same course.

The International Crown, announced in January as the first biennial, global team match-play event, will debut on July 24 at Caves Valley Golf Club outside Baltimore and will offer an unofficial $1.6 million purse.

While next year’s schedule has 12 more events than it had three years ago, Whan said there was more work to do.

"This is by no means a finished product," Whan said. "We’re going to continue pushing toward something in which the LPGA’s Founders and LPGA fans can be proud. We’re excited about where we are, but even more excited about where we’re going."

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