Sal Maiorana offers a Q&A with Carolyn Bivens in advance of the Rochester tournament.
Q: How has the transition to your new job gone?
"The transition has gone surprisingly well.
The players have been very supportive, we have a very good staff,
what's left of them...
and I would say we as an organization are very healthy. The challenges as we move forward are to be able to capitalize on all the interest and the buzz around the LPGA and to convert that into something that turns into a business success for the women."
Q: You came into a pretty good situation, thanks to the highly successful tenure of your predecessor, Ty Votaw. How do you maintain that?
"Ty gave us the foundation with the Five Points of Celebrity and Fans First, which actually makes it possible for us to move beyond that. We will never lose those two initiatives, which means with every rookie class we will go back and reteach and reinforce that, but we'll move on from that to being a real international organization.
I bet you can't wait to find out what that means...
That brings with it a whole different set of issues when you talk about the fact that we own the hospitality marketplace, if you want to say that's our marketing point of differentiation.
Ah, now I get it!
We are an international organization, and it means international players have to at least have a handle on conversational English to be able to interact with pro-am partners and do defending champion media days. It means that the U.S. and European players have to at least have conversational Japanese and South Korean skills when we're playing there. We'll take the Five Points of Celebrity and the Fans First and make that international."
Oh yeah, I can see Natalie Gulbis taking Korean classes!
Q: What are some of the key initiatives that you have targeted to put your fingerprints on the organization?
"I want to continue to enhance the marketing ownerships that the LPGA has on hospitality.
If a company wants to entertain its very best clients or its very best prospective clients, I want them to know that there's no better way to do that than to host them at an LPGA tournament and have their customers participate in a pro-am. There are a lot of different ways you can go about that. I also think there's a very unique opportunity to market these women in ways that no one ever thought of.
These Girls Rock!
Q: With the Women's British Open on shaky ground, is there any chance that the Rochester tournament could replace it as the LPGA's fourth major championship?
"I think that right now the LPGA, the players, the organization itself is changing so much, I certainly would never say never about anything. When we go through and benchmark best of class, whether it's tournaments and how they're run, how volunteers are trained, Rochester continues to rank in the top and epitomizes best of class."
Q: Where do you stand on the issue of Michelle Wie and her future on the LPGA Tour?
"Michelle, with the guidance of her family, has decided to turn professional and to not belong to any tour, and frankly I think that's a good thing.
Oh just super for the LPGA!
A few years ago women didn't have a choice to make a living at golf. Because there have been pioneers who have come before Michelle, including Annika (Sorenstam), who made her way into a men's event, and a number of others going back to Babe Didrikson who did that. I would never close off doors, I think it's fine to do it a different way.
Plus, closing off doors can get you in trouble with the fire marshal.
She can play six tournaments through exemptions and two majors, and I have no doubt that's what she'll do. And I will say, and I have said before, that Michelle is going to have to win just as the other stars have. Just being almost good enough isn't good enough,
and the world builds stars and the world tears down stars. Michelle is one of the most talented and most charismatic young women that you will ever meet, and I think we're very fortunate to have her playing women's golf."
Q: With the restructuring of the PGA Tour's television contracts, where does the LPGA fit into the mix?
"Our contracts with ESPN and The Golf Channel were just renewed last year and they have four more years. What we're looking at with the new talent that's coming in, we may choose some different distribution outlets. Now what do I mean by that?
Oh, do tell.
Because of the fans that follow Morgan (Pressel), Paula (Creamer), Christina (Kim) and Natalie (Gulbis), they consume media from different distribution channels than the fans did for Nancy Lopez, Jane Blalock and some of the others. Very few of them are going to sit down and watch two hours of coverage on Thursday and Friday. They may TiVo it, and watch it in about 40 minutes. It also means pushing scores through a cell phone, or through a Webcast. Those things have become much more important. I would say that no sports organization can rely on the traditional media to do all of their marketing, and you'll see us take a very holistic approach at the kinds of marketing and the forms that it takes and the distribution channels that we use over the next few years."
Consuming media and marketing holistically. Calling Whole Foods!
What are your thoughts on becoming the LPGA's first female commissioner?
"The responsibility, I feel, is to the organization and to the players. As they went through the search process and as I went through the interview process we did not talk about that, and I can't imagine any business organization would talk about whether they wanted a man or a woman. If you're not looking for the skill set that you need and outlining what has to happen with the organizations, what are the goals and objectives, then it doesn't make any difference. Nobody is going to measure up. I've been asked what it feels like to be the first female commissioner. I don't know what it feels like to be a male commissioner so I don't really know.
Hey, at least she's honest.