Saturday, May 01, 2010

LPGA Tour Wants to Add Stop in San Antonio

Richard Oliver of the San Antonio Express-News is covering the Duramed Futures Tour's Hill Country Classic this week at The Dominion, the former home to both the PGA Tour Texas Open and the San Antonio Champions Tour stop. In two articles published within the past couple days, Oliver details what appears to be a very strong interest on the part of the LPGA Tour in adding another tournament in San Antonio.

The first article reported the Tour's renewed interest, after a dalliance in 2006 didn't lead anywhere. The E-N quoted LPGA Tour spokesman Mike Scanlan saying this:

"It's obviously a market that the LPGA Tour is very interested in. At this point, we are actively looking at San Antonio."

After reading that first article, I was very skeptical about the chances. There is a growing corporate base in San Antonio, with some major players in town: Toyota, HEB, USAA, Whataburger, Valero, Tesoro, not to mention a continuing connection with AT&T. Among others. But Valero already sponsors the PGA Tour event in SA; AT&T already sponsors the Champions Tour event in SA. The others haven't show any recent willingness (in San Antonio, at least) to get deeply involved in sponsoring golf. The Futures Tour tournament in San Antonio has failed to find a title sponsor in its two years of existence.

And a company must get deeply involved to become a title sponsor for a pro golf tour. The E-N estimated a title sponsor for a potential LPGA Tour event in San Antonio would be in for at least $3 million.

But Oliver's second article, which appeared today, leaves me feeling much more optimistic about the LPGA's return to Texas.

In the second article, Oliver talked to, among others, Futures Tour CEO Zayra Calderon, who reiterated the strong interest of the LPGA in coming to San Antonio - but not at the expense of the Futures Tour. The two tours (the LPGA owns the Futures Tour) are thinking of staging back-to-back tournaments, first the Futures Tour followed by an LPGA event - in the same week, on the same course - and are looking south for potential sponsors.

... speaking from her office in Daytona Beach, Fla., (Calderon) said that she has been part of discussions aimed at someday possibly locating Futures and LPGA tour stops in San Antonio — in the same week.

"We're thinking big," Calderon said. "We're also talking to tournaments in Mexico, creating a little triangle (of tour stops), getting big sponsors in Mexico events interested in the San Antonio market."

What Calderon is describing is taking existing or possibly new tournaments in Mexico (the article revealed the tour is looking to add another event in Mexico), adding an LPGA tournament in San Antonio, and tying them together into a 3-week swing under the sponsorship of perhaps a single Mexico-based company.

I can see that working. One reason: Lorena Ochoa's management company is involved in managing the existing Futures Tour event in San Antonio. Lorena is retiring from competitive golf, she'll have plenty of time on her hands to schmooze potential sponsors among major Mexican corporations (including her husband's).

The articles states:

Calderon is optimistic. In addition to visiting San Antonio on several occasions to research the possibility of expanding the Futures Tour stop, she has joined with Hill Country Classic organizer Pepe Mirabent in discussing options with Mexico-based Ochoa Sports Management.

The group, overseen by star player Lorena Ochoa's brother, Alejandro, is helping coordinate this week's tournament.

A few days ago I would have put the odds of an LPGA Tour tournament coming to San Antonio at maybe 15 percent, at best. Now I'm thinking 50-50. At worst, what Calderon is talking about is evidence that the new LPGA commissioner and his braintrust are bringing lots of energy and ideas to the table.

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