The LPGA Championship, the 4th Major on the Tour’s 2014 schedule, has been a popular, player-favorite centerpiece of the LPGA Tour since 1955. Rochester has hosted the Championship for the past 38 years and this year’s finale is a bittersweet moment for local fans, supporters, and tournament organizers. The tourney has grown from an event with a $75K purse that fans were lured into attending with free tickets into a gala with a $2.25 million purse that require a year’s advance planning. With growth comes change. The LPGA Championship has outgrown Rochester and will be moving on to new management — the PGA — and bigger venues.
This is not the first time the LPGA has partnered management arrangements in order to advance a tournament to the next level. The US Women’s Open has been passed through three management teams. Begun as a bold and grand vision by the Women’s Professional Golfing Association in 1946, then turned over to the LPGA in 1949, within four years the Open had grown beyond the administrative capacity of the lean, young LPGA. Overwhelmed and forward-looking, the LPGA appealed to the USGA and the US Women’s Open became a wildly successful, collaborative event.
Now the LPGA has forged a dynamic partnership with KPMG and the PGA of America that will transform the LPGA Championship into the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship beginning in 2015. A multi-faceted program focused on the development, advancement, and empowerment of women on and off the golf course will deepen the scope of the new championship, and the NBC/Golf Channel partnership promises to further promote women’s pro golf to a broadened audience. It’s an exciting set of possibilities.
Speaking on behalf of the Tour’s players, world ranked number 1 Stacy Lewis is excited about the impact of the KPMG/PGA/LPGA partnership:
. . . for the players, it’s something we [have] needed for a long time. I think we are going to look back in a few years and say, ‘remember when,’ before this tournament; and I think things are going to be changed. . .
Still, understanding the promises of a bright future the new Women’s PGA Championship only softens the sense of loss Rochester feels as the LPGA Championship begins its finale this week. Linda Hampton, who for 34 years has guided the planning and implementation of the Championship at Rochester venues, who has mobilized and guided thousands of volunteers each year, whose “even-keeled leader[ship] . . . indefatigable work ethic, meticulous organizational skills . . .” have taken the LPGA Championship through “a golden era of women’s golf,” feels that loss perhaps more acutely than many others.
And yet Hampton has a plan. The Rochester Business Journal reports that “after closing the books for a final time, she hopes to spend some time with her husband, five children and seven grandchildren. She also hopes to do something she hasn’t been able to do for a long time—play golf.”