LPGA Commissioner Mike Wahn spoke this week about the ISPS Handa Open which will be played in Melbourne 7-10 February. This is the first year it will be on the LPGA schedule and is co- sanctioned event with the European Tour and the ALPG Womens Tour and the PGA of Australia. Men and women compete together on the same courses – there are two at the 13th Beach Club. Top female players competing are Ladies British Open champion Georgia Hall, World No 6 Minjee Lee, Pernilla Lindberg, Melissa Reid and Joanna Klatten. As well as a large field of top Australian players including former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy players from the European Tour already committed are Andrew ‘Beed’ Johnstonr, Paul Dunne, Nicholas Colsaerts, Victor Dubisson, Aaron Rai, Richard McEvoy, David Lipsky and Thomas Aiken.
“It’s time” says Mike Whan who disclosed in an interview this week that he and PGA Commisioner Jay Monahan have had an ongoing dialogue about mixed tournaments. He said that they had originally discussed a joint Tournament of Champions, but the new LPGA version held this week at Diamond Resorts is with a sponsor who wants to make the event a celebration and set the tone for the LPGA’s year ahead. It’s an important event for the LPGA which he plans a long future for. He felt that the PGA Tour’s Tournament of Champions was held too early. He said that prize money parity would only happen when TV audiences went up significantly – the mens tour currently have five times the audience. However they are now experimenting with four new events with different formats including a better ball team format with 64 teams. He said he went to the PGA Tour and asked them to share the process they used to set up the Zurich Classic. The sponsors for this new event, Dow, are very positive that fans will want to watch.
He said that the back to back mens and womens US Opens at Pinehurst was a good idea because there was a lot of interraction between the male and female pros exchanging coaching ideas. The IPSA Handa Vic Open has free admission for seniors and young people under 18 and just $10 a day for other spectators.
How different is this all from the made for television Men vs Women series which was filmed at Woburn in 1980 with Lee Trevino and Greg Norman vs Nancy Lopez and Sally Little, how patronising that was. I shudder at the memory. We’ve come a long way.