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With LPGA majors completed for the season, what would you do to improve the exposure of the tour?
By Mechelle Voepel
The LPGA is doing pretty much everything within its control to get whatever exposure it can in the United States. The problem stems from what the tour can't control: who wins the tournaments.
For increased viewership beyond the sport's die-hards, pro golf relies on dominant players and rivalries to spark interest. In 2012, the LPGA hasn't had either.
Sixteen players have won LPGA titles this season. Unlike Taiwan's Yani Tseng in 2011, no one has even remotely dominated. When Tseng was on top of the heap last year, no player rose to regularly challenge her.
Furthermore, only four of the 16 winners in 2012 are from the United States, which makes a difference in luring a consistent American television audience.
The LPGA has a global cast of talented golfers, and the overall quality of play is better than ever. Next year, the LPGA has its biggest tournament -- the U.S. Women's Open -- in New York, which should increase its media exposure. And the Solheim Cup -- frequently the most entertaining event in women's golf -- will be in Denver. But the LPGA has to hope for a more compelling 2013 storyline than parity.
By Graham Hays
The idea of improving exposure makes me shudder with memories of glowing hockey pucks, talking baseballs and pounding in-arena music that drowns out any event's natural rhythm. At the risk of similarly alienating the fans the LPGA already has, customers who are perfectly happy with the product as it is, it's time to change the schedule for the majors if the mandate is to reach other fans.
The Kraft Nabisco Championship, accepting it's probably financially unworkable to reclaim the Dinah Shore name, is an institution of its own with no small cultural footprint. But as usual, the first major of the 2013 season takes place over the same weekend as the men's and women's Final Fours. The first big event of the season needs its own weekend, particularly when it's up against another of the biggest events in women's sports. A week earlier and there's still a lot of basketball, a week later and there's The Masters, but something needs to change. Face it, if you're making it impossible for my dear friend Mechelle Voepel to cover your event, you're probably doing something wrong.
Likewise, acknowledging a tour whose global reach is evident each week on the leaderboards, let's steer clear of football season in the United States. The 1999 and 2011 Women's World Cups were major stories. The 2003 and 2007 events? Not so much, even though the former was held in the United States. Team USA's performance contributed, but guess which ones took place in the summer?
The United States isn't the only market that matters -- speaking of which, let's play a major in South Korea one of these years -- but it's the most important market from a financial standpoint.
Along similar lines, instead of playing two of the three majors in the United States' Eastern or Central time zones, as is more often than not the case, make sure at least one takes place in the Pacific time zone. You can't really play golf under the lights (although if there was a glowing golf ball ...), but it can't hurt to put the finish of a major in prime time for much of the country during the lean summer television months.
Finally, if there really needs to be a fifth major (there doesn't), make it match play. A fifth third round of major golf in a year? I'm probably not watching. Yani Tseng up a hole on Paula Creamer at the turn? Now you got me.
Make it as difficult as possible for people to miss the majors. If the product is good enough, some of them will come back for more.
By Sarah Spain
The LPGA could take a cue from coverage of the World Cup and the Olympics, which included in-depth profiles of the athletes on and off the field. Viewers became attached to the women competing, rooting for the likes of Gabby Douglas, Alex Morgan, Serena Williams, McKayla Maroney and Abby Wambach, not just because of the flag they represented but also because of their stories, personalities and impressive abilities. Someone like Stacy Lewis, who is the tour's No. 2 money-earner, has a great story to tell, having overcome childhood scoliosis and a spinal fusion.
Lewis is the only American in the top 10 on the money list, which can make it hard for the U.S.-based tour to market its athletes. So if the coverage won't come to the tour, it needs to go out and get it. Encourage the most popular, successful and charismatic players on tour to push for appearances on shows like "Dancing with the Stars," "The Biggest Loser," "Celebrity Apprentice" or any number of programs that welcome athletes as mentors or competitors. A few quality minutes in prime time could result in new fans tuning in to watch them come tournament time.
By Adena Andrews
The LPGA Tour should follow the motto, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." The men are successful, so the LPGA should find a way to attach itself to the men's tour more often. The women could play the same course but with different start times. The audience would have no choice but to see the athleticism of the female athletes. If they won't come to the game, the LGPA should bring the game to them.
Anna Rawson, an LPGA golfer and model, suggested a format with a field consisting of the top 75 golfers from each tour. Men could play from the back tees and women from the forward tees. PGA players would tee off, and once the men were down the fairway, the LPGA group would follow.
This isn't a guaranteed method of improving exposure, but for longevity, the tour should focus on its athleticism.
By Michelle Smith
The LPGA simply has to do a better job of pushing its players into the mainstream sports sphere. Most casual sports fans would be hard-pressed to name the top players on the tour. Those players need to be out, sharing their stories and personalities and trying to carve a stronger identity for a tour that is falling way behind. The LPGA doesn't have the luxury of a World Cup to promote its game and athletes.
A league or a tour is only as marketable as its biggest stars. Tennis has gotten a huge shot in the arm with Serena Williams' resurgence. The LPGA badly needs its own Serena.
By Melissa Jacobs
I don't watch the LPGA and never really have. I'm not sure if the tour could do anything to gain my viewership. However, I am largely into men's sports, so this has little to do with the talent on the LPGA Tour. I'm one of those people who tried playing golf a few times and realized my mental makeup did not remotely mesh with the sport.
Over the past decade, two LPGA storylines had me interested in the tour on a tangential level. One was Michelle Wie when she was just coming onto the scene. Her 300-yard drives were eye-opening, and I wanted to see if she could crack the men's tour. The other was Annika Sorenstam playing the Colonial PGA tournament in 2003.
In short, I would check out the LPGA if it was integrated into the PGA (coed league!) and its members were competitive in that format. You never know.