Jeff Murray of the Star Gazette of something had the
misfortune of interviewing both former LPGA Commissioner Ty Votaw and current Commish/brand maiven, Carolyn Bivens.
First, the Votaw chat.
Former LPGA Commissioner Ty Votaw returned to Corning as a private citizen this week to watch his fiancee, LPGA player Sophie Gustafson, play in the LPGA Corning Classic. Votaw stepped down from the LPGA's top post last year and was replaced in September by Carolyn Bivens. He spoke with Star-Gazette reporter Jeff Murray about life after the LPGA and his new role with the men's golf tour.Oops.
Are you here officially or unofficially?
Very unofficial, as unofficial as you can get. I'm just here as Sophie's fiance. I've been to one (LPGA) tournament this year. My job with the PGA Tour keeps me busy. So this is the second time I've watched her this year.
Why did you choose this tournament to watch Sophie play?
Corning has always been one of my favorite places. Given it's a long weekend and the fact that I just got back from London, it worked out well.
When is the wedding?
We haven't set a date yet.
And the Bivens chat...
How do you compare your management style with your predecessor, Ty Votaw?
Each previous commissioner, we're all coming into it at different times. Each had specific things they wanted to accomplish. They all needed to do things to grow the tour -- find enough tournaments, find sponsors. So it's different times. It's hard to compare.
Do you see your role as continuing to build on that momentum?
Continuing to build on it, but also to make a business of it. So we have to come up with more endorsement opportunities, health care for players, retirement benefits. We need money to invest back into the brand.
Not the Tour, not the players. The brand.
One of the more contentious initiatives you've instituted is a new policy giving the LPGA more control over media images and stories about the tour. What was the genesis of that move?
The media policy is mine. Because the LPGA is the last major sport that had no control over use of images at tournaments. If you Google LPGA and put in the name of your favorite player, you can find there are many photographs you can buy. You can also buy things like beer mugs with the LPGA logo on them. These are things that we didn't give permission for. We just wanted to gain control of it.
I'm sure those LPGA mugs were just flying off the shelves!
What does the LPGA have to do to continue growing in popularity?
I have to believe the players are the most important aspect of making it grow out there, and they are there.
Where's there? Like, the brand marketplace?
TV ratings, we are year-to-year (growing by) double digits. NASCAR is the only other sport where you are seeing that kind of growth. You've got a variety of personalities and you draw a broad audience. We have a very wide range and appealing group of women.
What are your personal goals for the tour?
I want women to get closer to parity with men as far as endorsement opportunities and playing in major markets. Each sport has made a major move at the height of its popularity, the PGA, NASCAR. We have an opportunity through our wealth of personalities to make our move in the market.
So you plan on staying on the job for a while?
I moved from Los Angeles (to Florida). I didn't take that lightly.