(Via LPGA TOUR) – The LPGA continues its upward momentum with record prize money and three new events in 2018, setting the stage for another season to remember for the world’s best female golfers and the sustained global growth of the LPGA Tour.
The 2018 LPGA schedule features 34 events across 14 countries, including two new events on the West Coast of the United States, for a record $68.75 million in prize money. In addition to the season’s five majors, which deliver more than (USD) $18M alone, the UL International Crown at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea promises to be one of the most sought-after tickets in the history of women’s golf.
“Perhaps the most important aspect of our schedule is the consistency — continuing to deliver strong playing opportunities both in North America and around the world, while growing overall purse levels every year,” said LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan. “There is simply no better Tour opportunity in the world, when it comes to purses, global TV coverage or strength of field. It’s an exciting time in women’s golf, with the best players from every corner of the globe competing against each other in virtually every event.”
While two events have exited the schedule and a third has been pushed to spring 2019, players will have three exciting new opportunities to compete, including two full-field events that fill out a swing around the West Coast of the United States.
After the LPGA’s standard week off following the ANA Inspiration, the Tour will return to Oahu, Hawaii, for the LOTTE Championship on April 11-14. The Tour then moves to the greater Los Angeles area on April 19-22 for the inaugural HUGEL-JTBC Championship. The host club for the tournament will be announced in early 2018.
The following week, on April 26-29, the Tour heads north to the Bay Area and a return to Lake Merced Golf Club for a new event sponsored by Korean skincare company L&P Cosmetic. Lake Merced, located just outside San Francisco, hosted the Swinging Skirts LPGA Championship in 2014-16, but that sponsorship moved to the Tour’s event in Taipei in 2017. The official tournament name will be announced in early 2018.
“These two new events are perfect additions to our schedule,” said Whan. “We believe they will offer terrific playing opportunities in wonderful golf environments, and make it more enticing for our players by strengthening this West Coast swing. They create a great four-week stretch that starts in Hawaii and finishes in Texas with our always exciting Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic, which is now being played at a new venue, Old American Golf Club.”
Additionally, a new event to be held in Shanghai, the LPGA’s only tournament on the mainland of China, will join the calendar on Oct. 18-21 as part of the LPGA’s Fall Asian Swing. Further details about this new tournament, including the title and course, will be announced in 2018. The Fall Asian Swing will open Sept. 27-30 in Kuala Lumpur for the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, before heading to the Republic of Korea for back-to-back weeks in Incheon at the UL International Crown and LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship.
The LPGA Tour expects to have more than 400 hours of domestic broadcast coverage on Golf Channel and network TV in 2018, with more than 450 hours available in 175 countries around the world. With domestic TV ratings that continue to climb annually, up 19% in 2017, the 2018 season is sure to continue to entertain and inspire golf fans around the globe.
UL International Crown Heads To Korea
Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon, Korea, will host the third staging of the UL International Crown on Oct. 4-7. This marks the first time that the competition, which features the best female golfers from the top eight countries across the globe, will be staged outside the USA. Record crowds are expected to line the fairways, and Korean legend Se Ri Pak will serve as the competition’s honorary director.
The eight countries to compete in the UL International Crown will be set following the U.S. Women’s Open, while the top four players in those countries after the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship will receive the honor of representing their homelands.
The UL International Crown was first held in 2014 at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md., where the Spanish team of Carlota Ciganda, Belen Mozo, Azahara Munoz and Beatriz Recari won all four singles matches on the final day to become the inaugural champions. Two years later, a powerful United States lineup of Cristie Kerr, Stacy Lewis, Gerina Piller and Lexi Thompson came from behind to win the prestigious title at Merit Club near Chicago.
The LPGA season’s five major championships always provide breathtaking drama, the quest for personal glory and the pursuit of the Rolex ANNIKA Major Award. On March 29 to April 1, the ANA Inspiration will take its traditional position as the first major of the professional golf season. Players will again wave to the iconic Dinah Shore statue that welcomes competition to the 18th green at Mission Hills Country Club’s Dinah Shore Course in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
Starting in 2018, the U.S. Women’s Open Championship, conducted by the United States Golf Association, moves from early July to a permanent spot in late May or early June. From May 31 to June 3, players from around the world will compete at Shoal Creek in Alabama for a $5 million purse, the largest of the LPGA Tour season.
On June 28 to July 1, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship goes back to Illinois, this time to the North Side of Chicago and Kemper Lakes Golf Club, site of the 1989 PGA Championship won by Payne Stewart. One month later, on Aug. 2-5, the Tour is off to the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes in Lancashire, England. The 120-year-old course has hosted 11 Open Championships and four Women’s British Opens, most recently Catriona Matthew’s victory in 2009, which came just 11 weeks after giving birth.
The LPGA’s major season will end Sept. 13-16 at The Evian Championship in Evian-les-Bains, France, with a purse elevated to $3.85 million, an increase of $200,000. In 2018, the tournament will be played in the same mid-September slot it has held since 2013, when it first received major status. However, Whan has already voiced the Tour’s intent to return The Evian Championship to a summer date as early as the 2019 Tour season.
The Evian Championship also serves as the culmination of the Rolex ANNIKA Major Award. Named for 10-time major champion Annika Sorenstam, the honor is bestowed on the player who, during the current LPGA season, has the most outstanding major championship record. So Yeon Ryu won the 2017 ANA Inspiration en route to capturing the Rolex ANNIKA Major Award, joining Michelle Wie (2014), Inbee Park (2015) and Lydia Ko (2016) as award recipients.
With 2017 not even over, it is never too early to look even further ahead to 2019. The MCKAYSON New Zealand Women’s Open will take a hiatus for 2018 and move to spring 2019, making a logical pair with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.
The planned date adjustment of The Evian Championship will create a mid-summer European Swing, paired with the newly renamed Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
And in even more exciting news, the LPGA Tour has three new events – two with unique formats – already on the docket for 2019. More information on those events will be announced in the future.
Corporate Sponsorship Strenghtens
A major factor in the continuing growth and stability of the LPGA is the development of a flourishing corporate partnership program. As announced at last month’s CME Group Tour Championship, the CME Group will continue the title sponsorship of the Tour’s season-ending event and the Race to the CME Globe through 2023. This partnership with the CME Group is just one of 23 new Title Sponsors that have been added to the LPGA portfolio in the last six years. The 2017 season alone also saw the LPGA join forces with six new Official Marketing Partners, with 14 companies partnering with the LPGA in the last three years.