[Jack] Whitaker covered, and delivered essays about, all manner of sport. He wrote as he dressed, with tweedy charm. He said of his favorite game, “Golf is the most movable feast of all.” That is, it could be played everywhere, from Merion, where he was a member, to the public courses of Philadelphia where he learned the game in the 1940s. MICHAEL BAMBERGER
Shipnuck: It's clear Bivens's hard-charging personal style has rubbed a lot of players and corporate types the wrong way, but you can't fault her original vision: raise purses, improve the pension and retirement benefits, and expand the tour's TV presence. The problem seems to be that Bivens has stuck to her hard-line negotiating even as the economy has imploded. Sponsors are hard-pressed to maintain their current commitments, and she's asking for them to pour in more money for next year and beyond. Something had to give, and it's being reflected by the tour's contracting schedule.
There has been no sign that Bivens called an audible after the economic collapse and postponed her vision to get them through these tough times and save some of these mom-and-pop events that are dropping like flies. That will ultimately be her undoing.
Jim Gorant reports that a "dozen or so" top players had dinner last week to decide if a different commissioner could run off fewer sponsors. He also indicates that a letter to the LPGA Board may be in the works.
Player director Juli Inkster, who was at the dinner, also said that as far as she knew no letter had come out of the meeting. Inkster told SI that the dinner "was kind of a personal talk about where we need to go and what we can do. As far as who was there and who said what, I can't get into that."
Don't we at least get to hear how much wine was consumed? That would give us a better idea how nasty the name calling got. Just a thought.
Reading the AP blurb that went out suggesting the $1.4 million Jamie Farr Classic has only a 50-50 chance of returning in 2010, it was hard not to wonder if anyone at the LPGA is thinking that it might be nice just to have some tournaments next year, regardless of purse size and market?
Then I see that Beth Ann Baldry raised this very point in a tough Golfweek.com plea for the Brand Lady to wake up before it's too late. Calling the LPGA "a floundering tour with flourishing talent" Baldry writes:
The days of Bivens doing too much too soon should be over. The LPGA needs to bend over backwards to make things work from here on out. The tour needs strong partners such as Wegmans, a supermarket chain in the Northeast (Everyone’s got to eat, right?) now more than ever.
Thanks to reader Brian for Bill Pucko's story on the demise of the Rochester stop. Another Brand Lady fan!
Hop on a golf cart with Wegmans LPGA Tournament chairman Jerry Stahl and you quickly come to appreciate how in touch he is.
Stahl is a big shot in Rochester, but he seemingly knows every golfer, caddie, volunteer and fan of his tournament by their first names. It is a large part of what makes the event successful. But the greetings were more melancholy this time around. "Don't let them take our tournament," they said.
It's always something. Stahl has dealt with the purse, the venue, the dates and the sponsor. The weather is a constant crisis to overcome. This is even a tougher nut to crack.
Trace the problem to the hiring of Carolyn Bivens as LPGA commissioner in 2005. Pursued for her marketing expertise, not for her golf world presence, Bivens was charged with bringing the struggling tour into the 21st century. She is proceeding with machiavellian efficiency.
My count has 10 full-field domestic LPGA events, as of now, for 2010, and that is generous since two of those do not have sponsors.
I also couldn't help but notice this odd juxtaposition of Tweets from LPGAer Christina Kim and Sirak:
Brand Lady, you've got a friend in Michael Bamberger, who says McDonald's is not a good sponsor for the LPGA to be aligned with and that Bulle Rock is too isolated to work as a major venue.
I think Bivens has made nothing but smart moves here. She's irritated a lot of powerful people in women's golf along the way, including some of the top executives at NBC Sports, which is not a smart thing to do when your tour is struggling, and the LPGA is struggling. But in the long run, Golf Channel is going to be the right home for many LPGA events, including its marquee championship.
Jennifer Myers says the Corning Classic's demise suggests it wasn't entirely related to the economy.
The bad economy was an obvious culprit, but was not solely responsible. Corning Glassware was hit hard by the global recession, which led to a 13 percent reduction in its workforce (650 jobs. There was also a 50 percent drop in sponsorship support, which amounted to $500,000. Projected cost increases for the 2010 event were $300,000, and for 2011, when the purse was to increase from $1.5 million to $1.7 million, meaning the cost increase for the sponsor would be $675,000. Not only are the purses for events increasing, television production costs will be going from $255,000 a year to $425,000 in 2010, with five percent increases each year through 2013. The reason has to do with the LPGA’s new business plan, referred to as “Vision 2010”.
LPGA Brand Lady Carolyn Bivens is interviewed by the "Toy Department" blog at the Baltimore Sun site. Some nice MBAisms for those of you collecting jargon at home.
Bivens: The fact that a sports league or association would own one of its own championships and be able to illustrate and display their best of class of their brand, to set the eligibilty criteria and own all the revenue streams for that event is huge. Yes, it is high risk and high reward, but the opportunities for that to make a difference from a brand standpoint ... over the next 50 years is very big.
How many years into the future are you looking? You talk about a focus of five to seven years, but you also talk about 50 years. Where, as an executive, is your focal point?
Bivens: For the long term, dealing with the base of the platform, you look out 10 years. Most of the rest of the planning you do for five years out.
Isn't that redundant, the base of the platform? Or is there a layer I don't know about?
So your deal with J Golf, South Korean television, that's looking 10 years out, maybe more?
Bivens: The deal is a five-year deal and the big news about that ... is that it's multi-platform. It's not just cable television rights for South Korea. They own multiple magazines, they have a partnership deal with CNN, they have multiple digital platforms. It's a way of cross generation to introduce current and future members of the LPGA to a very important part of the world.
Cross generation! That's a new one for me. Anyone care to define?
Randell Mell reports that the Brand Lady is in full retreat mode saying her "I'd love it if players Twittered during the middle of a round" remarks were taken out of context by Bloomberg's Michael Buteau and Mason Levinson.
Apparently the context was another value-engineered module not called the LPGA Tour. Happens all the time.
LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens released a statement saying she isn't advocating players use Twitter to communicate during rounds.
"Comments that I made in a conversation with a writer last week regarding the importance of social media and tweeting have been taken out of context," Bivens said. "We have not discussed tweeting or the use of handheld devices during tournament rounds with the USGA, or even within the LPGA, nor do we intend to. Our players will not be tweeting during the rounds of LPGA events.”
The statement created a stir amid questions about whether tweeting during rounds would violate the Rules of Golf.
We have our first festering wound in the LPGA player-Carolyn Bivens relationship. The most amazing thing? That it took this long.
Michael Buteau reports that Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel have suggested they will not be Tweeting from the course.
“I will not be twittering in my round,” [Paula] Creamer, who’s ranked third in the world, wrote on her Twitter page this morning. “It should not happen in any sport. The players have already told the tour no way.”
Shortly before her anti-Twittering tweet, Creamer told her followers that she was “Eating some pancakes for breakfast with my dad before we go out to the course.”
Morgan Pressel shared Creamer’s sentiments moments before beginning her first round at Panther Creek Country Club in Springfield, Illinois.
“Thanks for the luck and NO I will not be tweeting when I play,” she wrote.
Naturally I had to be traveling when Bloomberg's Michael Buteau and Mason Levinson revealed that LPGA Commish Carolyn Bivens blabbed that she'd like to...oh I can't type, it's too funny even though it's not really a surprise.
“I’d love it if players Twittered during the middle of a round,” Bivens said in an interview today in New York.
“The new media is very important to the growth of golf and we view it as a positive, and a tool to be used.”
Uh, the problem.
Bivens said the LPGA was awaiting word from the U.S. Golf Association on whether the use of handheld devices for Tweeting during competitive play is within the rules. The USGA oversees the sport in the U.S. and Mexico, with the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrew’s, Scotland, governing the rest of the world.
An e-mail to the USGA seeking comment about using smart phones, such as Research in Motion Ltd.’s Blackberry and Apple Inc.’s iPhone, for social-media purposes during a round wasn’t immediately returned.
The USGA’s 2008 Rules of Golf make no mention of the use of handheld devices such as mobile telephones.
Rule 14-3 -- “Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Unusual Use of Equipment” -- states that a player may not use any equipment “that might assist him in making a stroke or in his play; or for the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions that might affect his play.” The penalty for violation of Rule 14-3 is disqualification.
Not mentioned here is that on Twitter, followers can respond to posts. And do it immediately.
So say player L had had trouble all week on 17 with club selection, she could send out a Tweet asking what the followers think of her outfit today, which could actually be code for, what are the others using on 17? Or her instructor could be watching on television and notice a swing fault and Tweet the player.
Actually, the list of potential pitfalls is quite long and I'm sure the person in LPGA headquarters who suggested this was either ignored, or was fired already. You know, those golfy people.