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Whan Wants LPGA Back In Rochester

Commish in town for defending champions day
Michael Whan came to Rochester for the final LPGA Defending Champions day. 

The LPGA Commissioner then spent the afternoon telling everyone his tour would be back. 

Over and over on Monday, Whan told an assembled group of media, schoolkids and staffers from Monroe Golf Club and the Rochester LPGA Tournament team that he does not want the 2014 LPGA Championship to be the last ladies pro golf event in Rochester. 

"I'm going to work as hard as I can as the commissioner of the LPGA to find a way back to Rochester," Whan said. "We love it here. We hope you'll continue to love us here."

Last week, the LPGA signed on with the PGA of America and tax and audit giant KPMG to move the LPGA Championship to New York City. The purse will increase by over a million dollars. KPMG will make sure the weekend rounds are televised by NBC. Eventually, the event will be rotated among what the LPGA hopes are more major markets and courses. 

The move was not a surprise. In fact, tournament organizers both in Rochester and with the LPGA knew this day was coming for a long time, even as far back as when Rochester's event first became a major in 2010. 

"I knew at that time the Championship was probably going to grow," said tournament co-chair Jerry Stahl. "It was probably going to demand a higher purse than what we could afford and probably demand that you get on network television for the weekend. Now, thats a very expensive item. I was just thankful we could hold it for five years."

"People thought we had this choice. Do we go to New York City or do we stay in Rochester," Whan said. "At the end of the day, we knew that this era was ending. Nobody was running away from Rochester."

Whan said ladies golf could return in almost any form--with a legends event, a Symetra Tour event (LPGA triple-A), a regular tour event or as a rotating host for a major championship. 

Wegmans has stated it does not want to be involved with professional golf again. If the LPGA is to return to Rochester, another sponsor will be required. 

"Tournaments take money. They take title sponsorships," Whan said. "Around the world, I've called Wegmans the corporate hero for Rochester. We just need to find the next corporate hero that can do what (Wegmans) have done for the last few decades."

It may take a while, but it seems exceedingly unlikely that the 2014 LPGA Championship will be the final ladies' pro golf event in Rochester. 

"This was the right thing to do for the championship because we had to find the next place. But are we done with Rochester? I sure hope not," Whan said. "There's a demand. There's an interest. Players love it. This is where we belong. It's a good place for us to be. It's part of who we've been all these years."

"Why would you not want to come back?" Stahl said. "Here, you've got a great fan base... a wonderful community that loves the game of golf. Something will happen. They'll be back. I guarantee you they'll be back."

Until that happens, the LPGA hopes to celebrate Rochester's 38 years of hosting women's golf with grand sendoff. The LPGA has even brought a gift--admission to Tuesday's practice round (August 12th) will be free to all fans. 

"We oughta have one big reunion. One enormous week-long group hug," Whan said. 

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