A slight majority of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll—52 percent—says bringing the LPGA back to Rochester should be a priority for local business leaders.
The LPGA said last week that after the 2014 Wegmans LPGA Championship—Aug. 14 to 17 at Monroe Golf Club—the women’s golf major will move downstate and then rotate among sites nationwide.
The decision means an end, at least for now, to nearly four decades of LPGA golf in Rochester, including a five-year run as the LPGA Championship.
LPGA commissioner Michael Whan said he was “committed to getting back to Rochester.” But Wegmans Food Markets Inc., which has been the Rochester tournament’s title sponsor since 1996, has said it would not be likely to sponsor a non-major tournament. Even before the Rochester tournament became a major, Wegmans said it would need significant help in sponsorship if the tournament were to remain here.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents say that if the LPGA returned to Rochester, they would prefer an occasional major tournament, compared with 37 percent who favor an annual non-major tourney.
The 2014 event has a purse of $2.25 million, down from $2.5 million in its first four years as a major but up from $1.8 million as a regular tour stop.
The Rochester LPGA tournament has been a significant contributor to local non-profits. Proceeds distributed to various United Way agencies totaled $400,000 in both 2012 and 2013.
Roughly 600 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted June 2 and 3. Of those who responded, roughly one-third had attended last year’s LPGA Championship or related events at Locust Hill Country Club.
Should bringing the LPGA back to Rochester be a priority for local business leaders?
If the LPGA returned to Rochester, which would you prefer?
An occasional major tournament: 63%
An annual non-major tournament: 37%
Did you personally attend last year’s LPGA Championship or related events at Locust Hill Country Club?
Businesses like to complain that New York State is a terrible place because of government regulations. But when it comes time for them to step up and make a contribution that doesn’t translate to profit, they are no-shows. Wegmans and the
Wegman family have almost singlehandedly kept the LPGA event in Rochester. The family has repeatedly asked the business community for help. The result has been meager, at best. The LPGA has helped put Rochester on the map, thanks to Wegmans. Thank you, Wegmans, and shame on the rest of the non-contributors. From Foodlink to scholarships to the LPGA, Wegmans has been there for Rochester even though other businesses are happy to take profit and return nothing but complaints about New York State politics.
—Wayne Donner, Rush
The event should be replaced by a celebrity golf event where major recording artists, sports figures, big-name businesspeople, etc., participate in a Wednesday-through-Sunday golf event sponsored by Wegmans, and the charity interests can still be met.
The Rochester LPGA tournament is and was an important part of community life in Rochester. I came to Rochester in 1978, so the LPGA tournament has been part of all my life in Rochester. Interestingly I don’t like golf, but I do like Rochester. And I do feel that the LPGA is an important part of Rochester. Bob Wegman loved the
LPGA. He would have never let it go. Danny Wegman’s interests are elsewhere, but it is his money. It’s too bad that Rochester can’t develop some “ownership” agreement like the Red Wings or the Green Bay Packers to sell shares in the tournament. I’d buy some.
—Clifford Jacobson M.D., Rochester
It is a shame that additional successful, Rochester-based companies failed to join Wegmans in the support of this annual event before it was too late. From all reports, it is too late and it is a done deal. Hope that’s not the case for the future.
—Cynthia Barton, eConcepts Marketing
LPGA is important to Rochester, but Rochester is more important to LPGA than they think. No event on the LPGA tour has had the attendance that Rochester has had. Watch the next Golf Channel broadcast, and you will see very limited attendance at most of the events, including the majors. I will miss attending an event in person, but the Rochester area may have seen its last LPGA event. Rochester will continue to support golf, but I am not sure the LPGA is going to grow within the United States. Notice most new LPGA tour events have been outside the USA.
—Harold Ley, Stoney Point Consultants
The golf tournaments add some pizazz to the community and give us something to talk about with people who think our snow never melts. I hope there are businesses (local or regional) that find the value of publicity great enough to satisfy the greedy demands of the LPGA.
—Duane Kendig, Ontario
Kudos to Wegmans for their contributions to the local community. However, the community should not put the LPGA on the back of one of our best employers and businesses. Rather, the LPGA should develop a product that commands the dollars it seeks. These are the best golfers Rochester will get to see on a regular basis, but there is a return that needs to be met for every venture. Our community is not growing, and yet we have far more options for our entertainment dollars than we did years ago. Too much chasing too few will result in a few casualties. I will miss the LPGA, but this community needs to decide what is most important.
It is no good to give in to blackmail from the LPGA. Get an annual good golf tournament and cherish it.
—Ingo H. Leubner, Crystallization Consulting
Identifying the major sponsor or sponsors should be the first priority. We all enjoyed seeing the ladies play at Locust Hill. That is where the tournament belongs.
—Al Schnucker, Schnucker Packaging Inc.
We are a golf town, and the LPGA has been good for business. After 38 years we will go through withdrawal, and it will be a sad part of next summer. Losing the LPGA Championship is one thing; to lose it all is another that shouldn’t have happened. We should have gone back to the Rochester International format: many companies under one banner. It would never be an event like Wegmans, but the Rochester International was a great event with so much golf history. Let’s bring the Rotary back into any future events. There is a great reason to attend.
—Ken Pamatat, Creative Images
It’s called “change.” We had this event for 37 years. Something else will bubble up. It will be more exciting, more “talk-worthy,” more Facebook/social network dynamic. The mantra: Change is good.
—Eve Elzenga, Eve Elzenga Design
Events like these add so much to our community. We need to find ways to do more, not less.
This event has always been well-received and provided both a positive economic impact and much-needed support for local charities. I don’t think the type of event was important as long as a good number of top pros attended. And rotation among some of our fabulous golf courses would be another plus.
My personal opinion in this matter is anything is still better than nothing. It is silly to think we can manage a major tournament without a sponsor, and thus far I have not heard of any.
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
Just because there isn’t a golf tournament, it doesn’t mean that Wegmans is going to withdraw support for our community. More important: Our city schools are terrible. Our downtown is not a downtown. Our manufacturing base is shrinking. Our cultural organizations are either broke or don’t know that they are broke. Health care costs are affecting jobs. Plus there are many, many more problems—and we are thinking that a golf tournament should be a priority for our business leaders?
Rochester is a “golf-loving town.” The LPGA is good for our economy and good for the fans. I hope we can bring it back!
Is there one villain responsible for this mess: Danny, Mike Whan, or someone else? Or all of them? I feel like telling Whan to kiss my royal Irish (posterior)! I believe his “spin” about as much as I believe our politicians’ “spin.” Apologies for being so negative; there are just so many people here who have done so much, year in and year out, for the tournament to have some marketing MBA say, “It’s not personal; it’s just business.”
—Jerry McCabe, Irondequoit
For more comments, go to rbjdaily.com. To participate in the weekly RBJ Snap Poll, sign up for the Daily Report at rbj.net/dailyreport.asp.
5/30/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email email@example.com.