The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) has been called the most successful women’s professional sports organization in the world. Founded in 1950, it’s one of the oldest.
On Sunday, the LPGA finished its first 2010 tournament played under the U.S. flag. South Korean Hee Kyung Seo won the Kia Classic at La Costa. As April begins, the LPGA has held one tournament in Thailand, one in Singapore, then nothing for a month, and now the Kia Classic in Carlsbad. In a like period of time, the PGA Tour finished 14 tournaments.
In 2008, the LPGA Tour played 10 tournaments out of the country and 24 at home for a total of 34; this year, numbers are 13 and 13. Tour prize money in 2008 was $60.3 million; this year, prize money is projected to be $43.6 million. (The men’s PGA Tour awarded $245.8 million in 2009.)
The LPGA Tour has a new commissioner, Michael Whan, 44, out of Procter & Gamble, TaylorMade, Adidas Golf, and Mission-ITECH (hockey equipment). Two things about him to like: He’s written a novel and he caddied for Lili Alvarez at Florida’s Natural Charity Classic tournament a couple weeks back. Nice touch, particularly since that tournament is on the Dreamed Futures Tour — the LPGA’s developmental tour.
Whan is from sales, loves sales, loves his customers, and knows who to please. He recently told the New York Times, “I would like by 2011, when the players and my staff and I roll into a tournament…we all know what we’re trying to achieve for CVS, or Honda, or Kia, that we’re all working for them and we realize it’s more than a golf tournament, it’s an important corporate effort….”
Outlook: The LPGA will be fine.
Pro beach volleyball was big in the early-to-mid ’90s. The dominant women’s professional league held 25-plus events per year and the sport was brought into the Olympics in 1996. There have been two professional women’s leagues — the Women’s Professional Volleyball Association (which folded in 1997) and Beach Volleyball Association (which folded in 2001).
The originally male Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) filed for bankruptcy in 1998. There was much coming and going, but in 2001 it arose from bankruptcy as a publicly traded company with women’s and men’s divisions.
There are 12 tour stops this year, 7 in California. Last year there were 15 stops; in 2008 there were 17. The AVP has a new CEO who has a history of turning around dying companies. Money is tight and athletes pay their own travel expenses. But, on the happy side of the street, two AVP teams won gold medals at the Beijing Olympics, and ESPN2/ABC will televise some league matches this year.
Outlook: Everybody likes the beach.
The Professional Women’s Bowling Association (PWBA), was established in 1958. Thence followed 45 years of merging, renaming, new bosses, and struggle. The end came in 2003.
Not really. According to Wiki, “The Women’s International Bowling Congress (WIBC) acquired the rights and assets of the PWBA. This gave the WIBC control of the PWBA name, trademark, logo, website domain (pwba.com), as well as the PWBA’s historical records. The United States Bowling Congress (USBC) then acquired the PWBA when the WIBC merged with the American Bowling Congress, Young American Bowling Alliance, and USA Bowling in 2005.”
Had enough? Know this: somewhere a law firm is still making money off the PWBA. The formerly all-male Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) started their PBA Women’s Series in 2007.
Outlook: One of the PBA owners, Chris Peters, was the 105th employee hired by Microsoft. He resigned as vice president in 1998 to become a pro bowler, which is so weird I believe it. Chris didn’t make the cut, so he and two other Microsoft alumni bought the PBA.
Outlook: If Chris is happy, women’s bowling is happy. Chris isn’t happy. On March 11, PBA commissioner Fred Schreyer confirmed that Mr. Peters would no longer participate in future financing rounds.
The National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) is a women’s pro-fastpitch baseball league. Founded in 1997, the league begins its 2010 season with four teams (Tennessee Diamonds, Chicago Bandits, Akron Racers, Florida Pride) and a 50-game summer schedule.
The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) was founded in 1996. They’ve had the usual changes in franchises, owners, and structure. In the beginning, the NBA owned all the teams and, reportedly, still subsidizes the organization. The 2010 WNBA has 12 teams and a television agreement with ESPN that runs through 2016.
Outlook: Good times.
The Box sends fraternal greetings to the International Female Boxers Association, Women’s Professional Billiard Association, National Women’s Football Association, Women’s Professional Racquetball Organization, Women’s Professional Rodeo Association…