NAPLES, Fla. —
Cristie Kerr put it more bluntly, as she always does.
“We were definitely ahead of the curve,” Kerr said. “Without that, our tour might have gone away. We have a lot to be thankful for of the Asian countries.”
The LPGA Tour’s worldwide schedule used to be seen as a stigma. Now it is a way of life for them.
And it’s getting that way for others.
The European Tour had no choice but to follow the money when economies faltered. Just look at the last 10 years. About 65 percent of its tournaments in 2002 were played in Europe, including seven in England. This year, only 47 percent of the tournaments were held in Europe.
There were as many tournaments in China as there were in Scotland this year. There were as many tournaments in Dubai as there were in England. And the country that held the most official events on the European Tour? That would be the United States (with three majors and three “World” Golf Championships).
“It was clearly a stigma,” LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said. “But I said this to our players and our staff, ‘Gang, I promise you the rest of our sport is going to follow.’ Unfortunately, we’re going to be the model. We’re going to make all the silly mistakes. But you can’t go back.”
By mistakes, he was alluding to former Commissioner Carolyn Bivens’ short-lived attempt to penalize players who didn’t learn to speak English. Four years later, Kerr is starting to learn Korean, in part because one of her sponsors is the Korean Exchange Bank.
“Every business where I’ve worked went global,” Whan said, mentioning Proctor & Gamble, TaylorMade and the hockey industry. “And the end result is pretty cool. Your buffet is so much fuller. We believe we’re the future of sport. That sounds pretty bold. But how much money has the NBA spent a year to power into an international program? Or the NFL or Major League Baseball? For us, we’re there.”
Is it ideal? Maybe not.
“We have the best players from around the world. They move here and they want to play here,” Whan said. “I’ve had more than our share of players ... you would think, ‘Oh, they love your Korea event.’ No. They want another Atlanta event.”