European Tour ‘could bid’ for troubled LET while LPGA offers helping hand
Golf’s European Tour is considering launching a takeover bid for its troubled female equivalent while USA’s LPGA Tour is also looking at ways in which it can support the continent’s women players, according to reports.
The Ladies European Tour is conducted a review of its governance structure and business strategy after the loss of seven events and the departure of its chief executive Ivan Khodabakhsh.
However, a potential saviour has emerged in the shape of the European Tour whose chief executive Keith Pelley is weighing up an offer, according to The Guardian newspaper in the UK.
There have been no formal discussions and the tour would not confirm the report, but it did say: “We are always looking at ways to grow and expand our business.”
Mark Lichtenhein, the former head of television, digital media and technology at the European Tour, is the chairman of the LET and has taken over the day-to-day running of the women’s series on an interim basis.
The future of the LET was a major debate at the Solheim Cup, in which USA beat Europe, at Des Moines in Iowa at the weekend, as it emerged that LPGA commissioner Mike Whan had held talks with Pelley about how the two tours can help.
As a result of a spate of cancellations there are only 15 LET events this year, down from 28 in 2008, and the tour announced this month that Khodabakhsh had stepped down after five years in his post.
This followed a report in June, denied by the LET, that it was “on the brink of collapse,” having recorded losses of almost £1 million ($1.3 million) in 2014 and 2015.
No official reason was given for Khodabakhsh’s departure and, while there has been criticism of him from some players including Scotland's Catriona Matthew, it is understood he still enjoyed the support of the organisers of some events which have dropped off the calendar.
The chief executive position is to be discussed at an LET board meeting in two weeks’ time.
Lichtenhein might be able to count on support from both the European Tour and the LPGA, which has gone from strength to strength in recent years, now offering 34 events with more than $65 million in prize money.
LPGA commissioner Mike Whan told GolfChannel.com in Des Moines: “I have talked to Keith, and we both agreed that a bunch of different versions of how we could help as second or third parties is not helpful to anybody.
"So, we are working together, Keith and I, to provide a suggestion as to what we think we could do together. We are trying to create one vision."
While he has no fears about the Solheim Cup, which attracted large, enthusiastic crowds and extensive media coverage at the weekend, Whan said he wanted “to make sure my partner in the Solheim Cup is as healthy as they can be.”
He added: “The real question ought to be, 'How can we provide members of the Ladies European Tour the most playing opportunities, the most business opportunities, the most opportunities to be the best golfers in the world? When you start with that premise, decisions become a lot easier."
Lichtenhein argued that women’s golf remains a strong product in Europe and that the tour has been a victim of circumstances, telling The Guardian: “Quite clearly the priority right now is getting more tournaments. I think we have been very unlucky with global events. There were problems in Turkey. We had a Czech Open ready to go, then the sports minister was arrested. There were changes to sponsorship rules in China.
“There have been unexpected issues with sponsorship arrangements and in hindsight we were probably a little optimistic in terms of tournaments we hoped would come to fruition and didn’t. But there is no connectivity between any of these things. None of them have happened because this is women’s golf, other than maybe it is a bit of a soft target.”