WEST DES MOINES, IOWA | Mike Whan, the Commissioner of the LPGA Tour, and Keith Pelley, the CEO of the European Tour, appear set to join forces in rescuing the Ladies European Tour.
“Keith and I have spoken and we feel we could be more help together than separately,” Whan said from the site of the Solheim Cup.
Speaking during the course of Saturday’s morning foursomes, Whan explained that he feels a certain responsibility to come to the Europeans’ aid: “Our stated mission at the LPGA is to help women to pursue their golfing dreams and that doesn’t just mean American women. Any arrangement has obviously got to satisfy all parties but we’ve been having meaningful dialogue with the LET since the Scottish Open and we realise that there is a sense of urgency.”
The sense of urgency obviously has been accentuated by the extent of European suffering at Des Moines. Here, the CEO was not thinking of Suzann Pettersen’s withdrawal because of an old back injury; of Anna Nordqvist’s glandular fever, or of the resurgence of Charley Hull’s old wrist problems.
It was all about Ladies European Tour and it’s ever-more-skeletal circuit.
There were two members of the European team – Georgia Hall and Florentyna Parker – who arrived in Des Moines through the LET points list with no more than five LET tournaments under their belt. Clearly, Hall is ready to bridge the gap between the LET and the LPGA but most of the LET professionals are feeling pretty helpless. Five tournaments between January and August, as they keep saying, are not enough to make a professional.
Whan recalled how the LPGA had been through its own tough times and how they had fought back effectively.
“We’ve proved we can do it,” he said. “We’ve raised the number of tournaments on the Symetra Tour from 13 to 23, and those on the LPGA from 23 to 36.
He has also noticed the increasing number of European players who are heading directly to the LPGA’s Qualifying School, bypassing Europe. He cited Madelene Sagström, who has been a regular winner on the Symetra Tour.
Yet, pleased though he is to see these up-and-coming Europeans on his side of the Atlantic, Whan says he would like to see girl golfers from all around the world having choices.
“Our tour only works if we have super-strong regional tours,” What said. “Some girls like to stay at home and hone their skills before coming to the LPGA – and others just want to stay at home because that is where they want to be.”
He mentioned Beth Allen, the American winner of last year’s LET money list who nowadays plays both the LPGA Tour and the LET whilst living in Scotland. Allen told him that she was not out to be the world No 1. All she wants is to make a living from playing golf.
There may be those on the LET who still believe that they can make their association work without any help from the LPGA, the men’s European Tour, or anyone else. They could well harbour hopes of striking lucky with their next choice of CEO, but, if the truth be told, not too many others share in that belief any more. Not when the women have had more than a dozen CEOs in the same period as the men’s European Tour have had three.
The LPGA/European Tour option is one they should seize with both hands if they want to stay in touch with the world scene.