It has taken three days to process the news since it was announced on Friday. It was something which exceeded all expectations. But here we are. Commissioner Mike Whan of the LPGA has pulled out all the stops to regenerate the Ladies European Tour which some of its players will tell you was on its knees two years ago. The three year strategic alliance of the two tours set up in late November 2019 has delivered a miracle to the LET membership. The players who start again in May will be the new founders, as Mike Whan likes to refer to. The pioneers of a fresh start for women in sport. Let’s hope they grab the opportunity and everyone commits to making the best experience. Because with this, more women will want to start to play and slowly break down the dominant culture in the game. As a female European golfer I felt quite emotional thinking of the possibilities. Finally, our time has arrived.
This morning a new sponsor, Titelist, came on board as official ball supplier for the next three years. A record-breaking prize fund of 19 million euros over 27 events in 19 countries. A European defence of the Solheim Cup in America and the Olympics in Tokyo all covered by over 200 hours of live broadcast.
The lucrative Aramco Team Series to be played in New York, London, Singapore and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and the season ending Race To The Costa Del Sol with the biggest ever LET bonus pool. And all of the postponed tournaments from 2020 to be returned to the schedule. Remarkable. Nine new events including the 1 million euro Scandinavian Mixed event hosted by Annika Sorenstram and Henrik Stenson. the first of three events in Sweden. Solheim Cup star Anne Van Dam hosting the Dutch Ladies Open.
Alexandra Armas, the Chief Executive of the Ladies European Tour said she was “extremely excited…thrilled to offer some good news to our membership after a difficult season last year”. She acknowledged how the sponsors, partners and federations had shown belief, vision and perserverance. Solheim Cup Captain Catriona Matthew, who this year has 6 captain’s picks, has committed to playing on the LET tour alongside potential team members so she can see them play close up.
Dame Laura Davies said “it’s been great for us to get mentioned in the same breath as the LPGA. The women feel better, the sponsors are impressed and the fans love it. I can’t wait to get started again, so much is so exciting”.
It’s a huge transformation from barely two years ago. Although the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles brought in a fantastic 90,000 spectators, at the Scottish Open there were more people inside the ropes than out. With sparce attendences and scant tv coverage sponsors thought there wasn’t demand for the tour and stayed away. Many players had to take on part time work to support themselves or leave professional golf altogether. And there were complaints that those in charge were in denial.
It is thus a marvel what Commissioner Mike Whan has done for the LET, providing the LPGA’s support and investment and most of all getting sponsors excited in backing womens professional sport. The players hugely appreciate and respect his trust and genuine support. He is certainly leaving his post this year on a high after turning this round.
We must also recognise how important Justin Rose’s contribution was last year setting up the Rose Ladies Series, giving the LET players somewhere to play and giving them recognition. He and his wife Kate have committed further support this year in a scaled down version of one day warm up events in April before the tour starts in May. To have such support from the current Olympic and former US Open champion has done wonders to raise the profile of womens golf, showing it respect. I’m sure the LET players will look after their Pro Am partners, and care about this new tour. It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life – and they’re feeling good.