By mistakes, he was alluding to former Commissioner Carolyn Bivens’ short-lived attempt to penalize players who didn’t learn to speak English. Four years later, Kerr is starting to learn Korean, in part because one of her sponsors is the Korean Exchange Bank.
“Every business where I’ve worked went global,” Whan said, mentioning Proctor & Gamble, TaylorMade and the hockey industry. “And the end result is pretty cool. Your buffet is so much fuller. We believe we’re the future of sport. That sounds pretty bold. But how much money has the NBA spent a year to power into an international program? Or the NFL or Major League Baseball? For us, we’re there.”
Is it ideal? Maybe not.
“We have the best players from around the world. They move here and they want to play here,” Whan said. “I’ve had more than our share of players … you would think, `Oh, they love your Korea event.’ No. They want another Atlanta event.”
The PGA Tour is the strongest in the world. Thanks in large part to Tom Wade, the top executive in charge of marketing, the tour has been able to renew sponsorships or find replacements for nearly every tournament domestically. Then again, that didn’t keep the tour from following the money. When it goes to a fall start for its 2013-14 season, two of the events will be in Asia. The tour might have looked for other opportunities if it had not been a little late to the table.
The LPGA Tour started going international even in healthier times. It was during the recession that domestic events started to go away _ 24 domestic events at the start of 2008 compared with 13 last year _ and international events slightly increased.
Whan is optimistic that the LPGA Tour will add another event next year outside Beijing, and the ideal schedule would include four or five more American events, with about 60 percent of the tournaments at home. There is work left to get that done.
Players, meanwhile, found cause to embrace trips overseas. They get a business-class plane ticket and stay in five-star hotels in Singapore and Malaysia and just about everywhere else they go. There is no cut, so everyone makes money. They are treated like rock stars, compared with getting ignored at times in America.
“In Malaysia, our players stayed in a five-star hotel connected to a mall,” Whan said. “I’m sure we raised the gross national product that week.”
He said the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore had the atmosphere of the U.S. Women’s Open, and its South Korean event attracted more coverage and bigger crowds than the K.J Choi Invitational held the same week.
The LPGA is off for nearly three months. Its new season will start an ocean or two away from home, which no longer seems all that far away.