HARRISON, N.Y. -- In less than one month – June 11-14 – the best players on the LPGA will descend on historic Westchester Country Club in New York for the inaugural playing of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, formerly the LPGA Championship.
One of five majors on the ladies circuit, the newly branded KPMG Women’s PGA Championship also figures to be the most influential for young women outside the ropes, aspiring to climb the corporate ladder, or – in general – work their way toward garnering leadership roles in whatever they choose to do.
Along with looking up to the likes of two-time defending champion Inbee Park and two-time major winner Stacy Lewis roaming the fairways of the hallowed Walter Travis design, during tournament week young women can also find inspiration from a very special Woman’s Leadership Summit that will also take place at Westchester Country Club.
The PGA of America, in collaboration with the LPGA and KPMG, are working diligently behind the scenes to not only bring forth a world-class golf event, but also a week that celebrates and invigorates women on a global scale.
Dalynn Hoch, Chief Financial Officer at Zurich North America, which will sponsor the summit, spoke briefly about what golf has meant to her.
“We grew up on a small farm in southern Minnesota and it was really challenging to be able to afford to take us to golf,” Hoch said. “My dad said, ‘it's just as important for me to teach my two daughters to golf as it is to teach my son,’ and he took us out every week on the course to teach us to golf. He said, ‘I want you to be able to have the enjoyment that comes from a lifetime of golf, the relationships that you'll build whether it's some day with your husband, with your friends or in your profession.’ And I'm really blessed to now bring that opportunity through this tournament, through this summit to more women.”
PGA CEO Pete Bevacqua expressed that it was critical for the Association to have an elite event in the women’s game.
Bevacqua noted that since much of the PGA’s mission is centered on the growth of the game, it was incredibly important to find avenues to make the game appealing to women, who he called, “a huge part of the future and health of this game.”
Through the PGA’s “Get Golf Ready” initiative, Bevecqua said that out of the 100,000 people who took part in the program in 2014, 62 percent were women. There was also growth in the number of girls, aged 7-13, taking part in the PGA Junior League.
“Those are good statistics,” Bevecqua said.
With the percentage of female golfers on the rise, Bevecqua envisions the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – through the talent of the players in the field, as well as the exposure to a network television audience – to have a trickledown effect that paves the way for more growth for the game on the women’s side.
“We know that girls who are here that week will see the game and want to play it,” he said. “We know that women that are either at the summit or here during the championship will want to take up the game and it just made sense. We have a strategic plan and we kind of put things through a series of points and discussions and this checked every box. This is exactly what The PGA of America should be doing in 2015 as we prepare golf for the future.”
Kraig Kann, Chief Communications Officer for the LPGA, said that female winners of the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta National on the eve of this past Masters have been invited to be at Westchester for the week of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship to see the stars up close.
Lewis, currently the No. 3-ranked player in the world, is looking forward to what she expects to be a special week.
KPMG, which sponsors Lewis, asked her what was needed for this championship to be a success.
“I said we needed a big venue, a big purse and network TV,” Lewis recalled. “Those are kind of the three big things that I thought if we could get to all of our majors, really, eventually, that would really put us on the map. The big thing with this tournament I was most excited about was the venue. Starting here at Westchester but then going to courses that we traditionally haven't played on as opposed to PGA Championships or Ryder Cups or whatever, going to golf courses that are too short for the guys now will be perfect for us.”
Park, currently No. 2 in the world and winner of the former LPGA Championship in 2013 and 2014, said fans at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship can expect a lot more engagement with the players than they’re accustomed to at a men’s event.
That fan-friendliness, along with the high-level playing ability, is sure to get the average fan to keep a closer eye on the women’s game.
“I think it's fun to watch and obviously we are a lot more friendly [than the men] maybe,” Park joked.
LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan looks at this championship as the start of something much more than a golf tournament.
“At the LPGA we are running around the track as hard as we can, and then we'll slap the baton on some next leadership group, and the only thing we'll be measured on is: Did we leave the game a little bit better for the next generation of women than we found it?” Whan said. “I can tell you, there's a lot of things I'm going to be proud of when it's time to hand the baton forward but none are going to more proud than this moment and what we are building here. Because I fundamentally believe we are going to make a difference not only for women in America but all around the world, both inside the ropes and inside the boardroom.”