This past week offered up a unique insight into the often confusing and frustrating conundrum that is women’s golf at the top level (the business, not the playing).
The same week the LPGA brought what should be one of their most important tournaments to a worthy golf course for the first time, one of their most historic events was decimated.
The Founders Cup – a 10-year-old event celebrating the extraordinary efforts of the 13 women who started the LPGA – was a showpiece in New Jersey played on a beautifully restored Donald Ross course at Mountain Ridge.
It is an event that could – or should – be worthy of major status or something approaching it, a wonderful celebration of all the best elements of the game, the organisation and its players
Nine of the world’s top-10 players teed up and World No.2 (though likely soon to be No.1 again) Jin Young Ko put on an exhibition.
Meanwhile, at LPGA headquarters, the final spin was being put on the announcement that the 50-year history of the ANA Inspiration (or Dinah Shore as many still refer to it) was being sold out.
Played at Mission Hills in California since 1972 and as a major since 1983, the tournament was one of the most immediately recognisable on the schedule.
But from 2023 it will have a new sponsor (oil company Chevron), bigger purse (up almost $2 million), more television coverage (NBC will broadcast the event on network TV) and a new home state and course (Texas, course TBD).
In short, nothing recognisable at all.
And the casting aside of history has begun in earnest with the LPGA website already listing this year’s ANA Inspiration winner, Patty Tavatankit, as the reigning Chevron Championship titleholder.
Now it is possible that some, or even all, of the changes above might ultimately prove to be for the good. The ANA had its problems, some of them perhaps even insurmountable, and the very real choice facing LPGA brass may have been to do what they did or allow the event to disappear.
Even the most jaded onlooker couldn’t possibly believe the powers that be didn’t do all they could to save the event in its existing format.
But in an era when the play has rarely been better and the elevation of both the Women’s Open and LPGA tournaments has been so successful, it is frustrating to think a better solution couldn’t have been found.
The Founders Cup this week proves that if you allow the best women players to showcase their skills on quality courses for meaningful trophies, it is a formula for success.
History will tell us in a few years whether the Chevron move has ticked all those boxes.