NAPLES, Fla. (AP) – The LPGA Tour continued its turnaround Friday by announcing a 2014 schedule that adds four new tournaments, doesn’t have any breaks longer than two weeks off and offers average prize money of $1.75 million.
LPGA commissioner Mike Whan already met two crucial goals when he took over in 2010 at a tour in disarray. He wanted the women to have at least 30 tournaments, and he did not want the increase at the expensive of shrinking prize money.
The 32-tournament schedule for 2014 is up from 23 official events in 2011. And the total prize money is back over $50 million, now at $56.3 million. That does not include the $1.6 million purse at the International Crown, a new event featuring eight top countries that gives players outside the United States and Europe a team competition.
Three of the new tournaments will be in the United States, meaning that 21 tournaments will be held in North America in 2014.
The tour previously announced a return to Michigan with the Meijer LPGA Classic. The LPGA also returns to northern California with the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, to be held at Lake Merced in San Francisco. Swinging Skirts is a group based in Taiwan, a consortium of business leaders interested in promoting golf. Whan said some spots would be reserved for players off the Taiwan tour. It’s the LPGA’s first co-sanctioned event in North America.
The Alabama LPGA Classic also returns to the LPGA Tour schedule. The fourth addition is another tournament in China, with details to be announced in February.
One tournament was listed as tentative, though Whan was confident the LPGA would return to Portland, Ore. He said the tour has a date, a golf course and prize money, but is still working out details with the sponsor. The tournament has been sponsored by Safeway, and traditionally features one of the larger donations to charity.
The LPGA Tour’s five majors include stops at two of the best courses in golf.
One of them is Pinehurst No. 2 for the U.S. Women’s Open, to be held the week after the men play Pinehurst No. 2. It’s the first time the men and women will be competing on the same U.S. Open course in successive weeks.
The Women’s British Open has been moved up one month because of the Commonwealth Games in Britain. It will be held July 10-13 at Royal Birkdale, one week before the British Open is held about 30 miles away at Royal Liverpool.
When Whan took over, the women had huge gaps in the schedule, making it hard for it to build momentum in fan interest. There is no break longer than two weeks, and most of those are either geared around the majors or the Asia swings.
The LPGA season starts Jan. 23-26 with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic at the Ocean Club, which last year was held in May. After a two-week break, the women go to Victoria Golf Club for the Women’s Australian Open, followed by two stops in Asia.
They also end the year with six straight weeks in Asia _ two in China, one each in Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea _ before returning to the North America for the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico and the CME Titleholders in Naples.
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