By Mike Dougherty
NEW YORK – Polite golf applause punctuated the formal introduction of the KMPG Women’s PGA Championship, and when a collection of industry movers and shakers exited the iconic stage at 30 Rock, Tom Rosato glanced at his phone.
There were 82 e-mails waiting for the Westchester Country Club president.
“I haven’t looked at them yet, but I have spoken with a few of my friends who are associated with golf, and everyone is excited about the mere thought of this thing,” Rosato said. “It’s exciting to bring a major championship back to the area.”
An innovative partnership between the PGA of America and the LPGA resulted in a rebranding of the popular Wegmans LPGA Championship. The board at Westchester Country Club was contacted two months ago and quickly reached a deal, allowing the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship to be contested on the famed West Course in 2015.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
“I would tell you that it’s critical from our perspective … to really take this event to the very best golf courses in the country,” said PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua, who is a Bedford native. “And we think we are starting that off in the perfect spot for this event at Westchester Country Club.”
The plan is to rotate the championship to different courses in the metropolitan area.
Over the five years of the deal, there will be competition from other major championships in the market, and in those years the event would likely be played in another city where title sponsor KPMG has ties — Atlanta, Chicago or Houston.
Future sites are currently being courted.
“We know there will be a rotation, and we’ll just put on the very best show we can and who knows?” Rosato said when asked if the event might come back to Westchester in future years. “A regular rotation down the road has been discussed a little, but nothing’s been firmed up.”
The championship will offer a purse of $3.5 million, the second-largest in women’s golf.
NBC Sports is also on board.
The partnership includes three hours on the Golf Channel both Thursday and Friday, and three hours on NBC both Saturday and Sunday. Currently, the U.S. Women’s Open is the only event featuring the LPGA that is getting network air time and promotion.
Westchester Country Club also benefits from the added exposure.
“Between purse size, business opportunity, venue opportunity, and what’s going to happen from a television-partnership perspective, this is going to elevate women’s golf,” LPGA commissioner Michael Whan said.
Several marquee players from past and present generations seem to be on board.
“It’s something we needed,” said Stacy Lewis, a KPMG-sponsored player with nine wins who was part of Thursday’s announcement inside Studio 8H, which is home to “Saturday Night Live.” “It’s something we needed for a long time. … You know, playing the best golf courses in the country, that’s something we’ve been fighting for for a long time.”
The PGA of America will run tournament operations with help from the LPGA.
Like the PGA Championship, there will be an opportunity for women who are teaching and club professionals with PGA or LPGA membership to play their way into the event. Initially, there will be eight spots reserved for that group in the 156-player field.
There will also be events during the week that celebrate women in business and golf.
“It’s critical for us to grow the game,” Bevacqua added. “We believe in the future of golf. A critical component of that is women.”