Is there a South Korean surprise up the LPGA's sleeve? I'm not talking about the Hana/KOLON event, on which Evans said, "With regard to Korea, we are continuing discussions with our partner Hana Financial Group. In the near future we expect to announce the specifics of our Korean event." Nope, here's what she said that perked my ears right up:
The LPGA Tour remains the preeminent sports association in the world, and there is no doubt that we are poised for greater things in the years ahead. Never did it hit me more than a couple weeks ago in South Korea, where there is a national craze for golf and for women's golf in particular, and where recession economics are perhaps a memory. There we're in talks with a number of companies wanting to sponsor tournaments.
Two details of note from the LPGA.com press release that I haven't seen any blogger properly emphasize yet: (1) Hana will be the sole title sponsor of the LPGA Hana Bank Championship, and (2) the purse is $500K larger than HSBC's in 2010. This means that (1) if Hana's former co-sponsor, KOLON, wishes to sponsor their own event, they'll have plenty of room to do so, what with the Hana event moving to the week of October 10, 2011, and (2) Hana looks like they're trying to show up HSBC in prize money and in other areas:
Hana Bank is a subsidiary of Hana Financial Group, a holding company which reported $38.5 billion in revenues in 2008. The financial organization recently initiated a globalization drive aimed at creating an "Asian Belt" by building strong overseas networks in China and Southeast Asian countries.
Do I smell a bidding war for LPGA events in Asia this decade? So yeah, I still think there are more good shoes waiting to drop from Korea, most likely for the 2011 schedule. But wouldn't it be cool if the LPGA shored up its winter 2010 schedule with a co-sponsored event with the KLPGA in Korea? I'm even more eager to find out what the KLPGA's 2010 looks like.... And what if the LPGA got a stop in Hawaii on the way back from their late-season Asian swing from 2011-up?
Before I go and update my worldwide schedule, I should point out that Bill's fan post at Hound Dog's place was right before he corrected it: the China event had been pencilled in the same slot that the Hana tournament in Korea just took. So because a Korean corporation got its act together before the Chinese government did, they got the week before the Mizuno in Japan and China had to move back to 2 weeks before. This means that the organizers of the China event may have to live with some prominent LPGAers taking a break their week, as the tour now has an 8-week run to close out its 2010 schedule. I'm all for saving the best for last, but will anyone be motivated and healthy enough to close out their 2010 LPGA schedule with 8 straight weeks--moving from Mexico to the Southeast to the West Coast to China to Korea to Japan to Mexico to somewhere yet to be determined in the States--even with Player of the Year on the line?
[Update 1 (2/10/10, 4:34 pm): Passing along the pass-along from Hound Dog that Kia is the title sponsor of the 1st domestic event on the LPGA schedule!]
[Update 2 (4:47 pm): Ryan Ballengee notes that Kia had been trying to sponsor a PGA Tour event. Now they have the LPGA and the spot on Michelle Wie's bag that Sony used to have. I think they ended up ahead.]
[Update 3 (2/11/10, 9:59 am): Here's Stephanie Wei's take.]