LPGA Confident Of Long Stay In Ann Arbor

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LPGA commissioner 'confident' tour event will remain in Ann Arbor

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Volvik President Don Shin, LPGA Volvik Championship Tournament Director Keith Karbo and LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan discuss the future of the tournament in Ann Arbor on Wednesday at Travis Pointe Country Club. (Photo used with permission from LPGA/Gabriel Roux)
Volvik President Don Shin, LPGA Volvik Championship Tournament Director Keith Karbo and LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan discuss the future of the tournament in Ann Arbor on Wednesday at Travis Pointe Country Club. (Photo used with permission from LPGA/Gabriel Roux)

ANN ARBOR -- The future of LPGA events in Ann Arbor is unclear, but commissioner Mike Whan said he is confident the city and the organization will have a long future together.

What that relationship will be remains to be seen. Volvik Inc. is in its final year of a three-year agreement as the title sponsor of the LPGA Volvik Championship at Travis Pointe Country Club in Ann Arbor.

The tournament is set to begin Thursday and conclude Sunday with no agreement in place to keep the event at Travis Pointe or to have Volvik remain as the title sponsor.

Whan said all parties involved in contract negotiations are interested in keeping the tournament in southeast Michigan but declined to provide any specifics.

"All of these events are like making a cake," Whan told media Wednesday at Travis Pointe. "You've got to get all the right ingredients together before you put the thing in the oven. And the ingredients of this event are strong. We love this community. I love the fact that so many of my players are staying in host housing and the members of this course have been unbelievable to us.

"So we've got a lot to figure out in terms of how we (put) it all together, but I feel comfortable about our plans here long term."

LPGA Commissioner on future in Ann Arbor

No announcements about the future of the tournament are expected this weekend, Whan said, and any updates might not come until November, when the LPGA announces its full schedule for the following year.

Volvik Championship Tournament Director Keith Karbo said it is possible that Travis Pointe will continue hosting a LPGA event but with a new title sponsor.

Because of the rapid global growth of Volvik, a South Korean ball manufacturer, president Don Shin said the company is evaluating its marketing strategy moving forward.

"We have other requests from other international distributors and other areas, so we're looking at everything in consideration," Shin said. "But by far this is one of our favorite (tournaments). Players really love it out here. We have a huge passion for women's golf and it fits right in here. We really appreciate all the things that the team has done, and Travis Pointe has been great.

"We're coming back, we just don't know in what capacity, whether it's a title, co-title or a presenting (sponsor)."

If Volvik does decide to not sign an extension as the title sponsor, that would open the door for others.

Karbo said representatives from several corporate partners will be in attendance this weekend.

"Our phones have been ringing from other corporate partners, local and national, and they're saying, "Hey, we like what we see there, we have some prospects in town this week to take a look."

"I think we've got a good track record now, so I think we're an attractive property for them for all the right reasons, whether that be the global nature of the LPGA, whether that be the local nature of the Detroit area, Ann Arbor and Michigan overall."

Karbo said he has heard nothing but positive feedback about the Volvik Championship. After drawing crowds of about 30,000 the first two years, that number is expected to increase to 35,000 this year, he said.

"Operationally, it's a fantastic venue for us," Karbo said. "Parking is close and there is plenty of space for spectators. What we've tried to do is grow the event each year organically, so year one we had no grandstands, year two we had two and year three we have three grandstands and we enhanced the first two.

"The vision of this tournament was to do something good for this community. I think we've done that, and that is not just us talking. "That's the players, the Golf Channel and the spectators."

Whan said the title sponsor would have to be able to cover a certain expense amount, but that number was not specified.

He also was asked if the announcement of a new LPGA tournament in Midland beginning in 2019 would reduce the chances of a tournament remaining in Ann Arbor, but said that it would mean the opposite.

There also is an annual LPGA event in Grand Rapids with the Meijer Classic.

"I think at the end of the day, most of these are great hometown events, right?" Whan said. "I would just tell you, in the world of the LPGA fan base, there's nowhere better than the midwest and there's nowhere better than that than in Michigan.

"I feel confident we're going to see the same volunteers in two or three different markets. We're going to see a lot of the fans in the same markets, and I can't see that as a bad thing, especially because we took a lot of years where we weren't coming to Michigan at all."

Source : http://www.mlive.com/sports/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2018/05/lpga_commissioner_confident_to.html

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