Yasuda: Bivens Making More Friends

Thanks to reader LPGA Fan for this Gene Yasuda Golfweek story that makes me think Carolyn Bivens will have a hard time making it past Thanksgiving. 

But during the Wegmans LPGA tournament in Rochester, N.Y., it became evident Bivens' style is causing problems of substance. So much that the tour's most important constituents – tournament owners – publicly have joined the fray.

During a June 20-21 board meeting of the LPGA Tournament Owners Association at the Wegmans, directors expressed dissatisfaction with Bivens' take-it-or-leave-it approach. Their complaints signal the most serious challenge yet to Bivens' administration and give credibility to industry whispers that her tenure may be short-lived.
But Bivens dismissed notions that her employment was at risk and assailed what she says is a vocal minority that's attacking her only to "protect the status quo."

"The band of TOA has decided it's all or nothing. . . That's why they sought out the media." Bivens said. "It's been difficult to sit back and read that I'm out here pissing off a bunch of people. Any change threatens some people.

Isn't it wonderful that she's so media savvy!? What branding.

However, at least a dozen tournaments are in various stages of contract renewal. Should events sever ties with the tour, some players, miffed by the reduced opportunities to cash paychecks, could break ranks and seek Bivens' ouster.
According to Stephanie Hall, the TOA's president, directors devoted their entire session – 10 hours over two days – reviewing the commissioner's leadership since she took office in September. Most revealing, Hall said the group focused on how it "can help move the needle off the administrational hiccups" and restore "the essence of partnership that's been lost."


Bivens said she is not worried about losing her job because she's doing exactly what her bosses want her to do. 
"The (LPGA Board of Directors) is 200 percent behind me," she said. "The staff and the commissioner are executing a direction that has been staked out by the board."

The staff that's left, anyway. And hey, at least she didn't use 110%!

But Bivens said she has made concessions – including the sanctioning fee adjustments for existing events – and added that "you have to move when the market allows you to move."

That's life in a free market.

"You've got a clash of old world and new, and you've got others who are saying, 'Don't you appreciate I've been here for 20 years when nobody else was here?' Absolutely we do," Bivens said. "But do you not charge market value for a product because somebody has been around for 20 years? That's really what we're talking about."

Of course, we knew that.

Hall declined to identify the events, but her breakdown makes clear that nearly 38 percent of the LPGA calendar potentially is in jeopardy.

Hey, it's not like it's 40%.

In addition, she insisted Bivens' critics were unaware of the strategic initiatives the commissioner is crafting behind the scenes.

"You're going to hear a lot of positive things over the next couple of months," Donofrio said.
But owners are tiring of that refrain.
"It seems every time we meet, we're being asked, 'Give us another six weeks,' " Hall said. "Or we're being told, 'We've got some great things happening.' It's been a year, and time is running out as far as patience."
It is becoming increasingly apparent Bivens needs to work faster if she's to earn positive reviews from more of her constituents – and, perhaps, keep her job.
"In all fairness to the commissioner, our owners have certainly discussed the complexities of being in her shoes . . ." Hall wrote in another e-mail. "Many have concurred with the intent of some of her initiatives, however, the means to those particular ends is what they would likely do differently."

Yep, Thanksgiving, that's your over-under.