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March 14, 2018
THE MODERATOR: Thank you so very much for coming today. My name is Christina Lance with LPGA Communications, and we're so happy to have you all here with us.
I would like to introduce everyone here on stage. We have Mike Whan, commissioner of the LPGA. Mike Flaskey, the chief executive officer of Diamond Resorts. In the middle, Brittany Lincicome, and eight-time LPGA winner and a Diamond Resorts time ambassador. Lee Brice, country music singer and songwriter; also a Diamond Resorts Ambassador. And Colt Ford, also in the country music world, songwriter, a former professional golfer, and yet another Diamond Resorts ambassador.
Now that we've met everyone, let me turn things over to our LPGA commissioner, Mike Whan.
MIKE WHAN: Thank you. I just want to say to the group that this is a pretty exciting day for us. Mike and I met I don't know, six, eight months ago, and he asked me one simple question that stumped me. What's your party on tour? What's your reward? What's the one that players really feel like is the party and golf tournament in one?
I hesitated for a long time and he knew that I didn't have an answer. He said, Why don't we change that? And so starting today and starting in January, we are going to change that, so I just want to say thanks to Mike in advance.
I think from playing with this group, I realize that you guys know how to have fun and play a golf tournament. I don't know what bothers me more about Colt, his game or his singing, because they're both incredible. A guy shouldn't be that talented in two things. That's unfair.
COLT FORD: And good looking. Very, very good looking.
MIKE WHAN: I was going to say that.
I was just going to say, on behalf of the LPGA this is a big day for us. I'm going to let Mike tell you the specifics, but this is a big day because this fills a hole not only in our schedule, but emotionally and psychologically for our players all around the world.
They've got a party to look forward to, and that's going to start in '19.
MIKE FLASKEY: Thank you, Mike. Well, we're very honored and excited. We had a golf tournament that I think has been about four years old now called the Diamond Resorts Invitational. It was a challenge-season event for the PGA champions that compete in a separate tournament for a half a millions dollars.
We at Diamond Resorts, we enjoy hospitality. We do over 3000 special events a year, so when we did this golf tournament, we have evening functions that have world-class entertainment. We are a vacation company, so everything we do is themed around vacation.
As we really started to see this thing grow, frankly, we call it lightning in a bottle. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, and we're very, very blessed at what we have on our hands and what we have created.
Because of the television ratings, we had an opportunity to take this tournament to network TV starting in 2019. We thought that if the golf tournament was going to go network, we thought it deserved a competitive golf event on the professional side, instead of a challenge-season event.
So Mike and I began talking, and the LPGA Tour has not had a tournament of champions for about ten years as I understand it. They also do not have a Pebble Beach, if you will, that the PGA Tour has. We felt like we had the perfect product with the Diamond Resorts Invitational to create what we are most excited to talk to you about today, and that's the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, which will feature LPGA champions, one of the best fields in golf as it relates to the LPGA ladies.
You will have had to have won a golf tournament in the past two years to qualify to play in this Tournament of Champions. There will be a $1.2 million purse; there will be no cut. There will be a limited field. It will be a very meaningful golf tournament from a financial perspective, and we are just thrilled and excited to be partnering with Mike and the LPGA.
We've been blessed to have had Brittany Lincicome on our team for about four years, and I've really been able to watch the job that Mike's done growing the LPGA and the quality talent and just watching the level of golf improve every year, and we thought a progressive, innovative organization like the LPGA fit beautifully with Diamond Resorts. We like to believe we fit in that same mold.
We're most excited to have this. The uniqueness of the event is that the ladies will be competing in stroke play over four days for a $1.2 million purse, alongside the celebrities, who will be competing with a modified Stableford format for a half million dollar purse, which by the way, is also very competitive as well.
In each grouping you will have two celebrities paired with one LPGA champion, so that's what we're here to announce and talk about. (Applause).
THE MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Mike Flaskey. We really appreciate your support of the LPGA.
I'll turn things back over to Mike Whan real quick just for your reaction on this exciting news.
MIKE WHAN: Well, this was an easy one to explain to the players last night in the player meeting, and what I told them - and people like Brittany get it in back order - but if you win on tour, you're going to get a Tumi backpack.
In the Tumi backpack is not only your certificate because you're now qualified to play in this unique event, but you also win a week-long stay at any Diamond Resorts.
The first backpack somehow is stuck in my office with that certificate, but from here on out those backpacks are going to make it out to players who win.
We had a few players in the room last night that realized they were walking out of that room with a Tumi bag with a week-long stay, and that they were going to be playing in January of '19 in the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions.
For those who follow the LPGA, think of this as the opening event. It really takes place now the week before the Bahamas event. It's in our hometown of the LPGA of central Florida. It's in the hometown of a lot of players. So when you announce a Florida event at a player meeting, it's usually pretty good high-five reaction.
I would say there wasn't a player in the room that didn't already know about it, because of players like Brittany and Brittany Lang, Brooke Henderson. This was not well-kept secret. Not the tournament, but how much fun this was.
If I've heard from Brit once, I've heard it a million times. Have you checked out this Diamond Resort thing. That is a lot of fun. I couldn't bring myself to go down there, because it's always depressing for me to go to somebody else's event that's cooler than ours.
Now I get to come. To see our logo on that event too is really exciting. I think from a player's perspective, what's nice about this event, of course it's stroke play, of course you'll play with some of the coolest celebrities and athletes in the world, but it's really a reward.
If you can win out here on tour, which is incredibly difficult, you deserve this. I'm really proud of Diamond Resorts to not only do this with us and in close proximity to our headquarters, but to do something that really creates a reward for the best female athletes on the planet.
THE MODERATOR: Speaking of, we will turn things over to our Diamond Resorts ambassadors. We'll start with our two-time reigning Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic winner, Brittany Lincicome.
Brittany, you've got your bags packed already. No matter what he says, I do have a Tumi bag over here for you in a little while. You've got to be pumped by this news of Diamond Resorts now joining the LPGA.
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Yeah, super exciting. Obviously in years past it's only been a small handful of girls. It's hard to pick which ones get to play in the event because it's so much fun.
Now obviously we'll have 35 girls get to play. Being in Florida, the concerts that happen at night, just really the fun. Obviously the spectators that come out, they super enjoy it. Like they have so much fun.
It's just a fun event. To kick off the season, to have the first event -- obviously it's serious. Obviously we're playing for a lot of money and there are points to be won for the season, but it's just like a nice laid back way to start the season off.
Good time for myself and my caddie to kind of get back on the same page and start gelling again. Again, did I say it's fun? Because it's super fun. It's definitely one that everyone is going to love, and I'm excited for my friends to come out and see it.
MIKE FLASKEY: She says it's fun, because she's played in the tournament two years in a row and then gone to the Pure Silk and won the next week.
BRITTANY LINCICOME: That only happens for me though, not the only girls.
THE MODERATOR: No sharing that next year. (Laughter.)
We'll move next to Lee. Lee, you've participated in this event in the past. Tell us what that experience is like to play alongside our LPGA pros and your fellow golf fans out there.
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Be nice.
LEE BRICE: Well, yeah, I'll be nice, because it is nice. Last year actually was my first time being able to play in this tournament or any tournament kind of on TV or any of that stuff, so I kind of had the jitters.
Within five minutes I'm out there with John Daly and I'm out there having a great time. I kind of stink it up, but I had the time of my life, because I'm watching these girls go around and they're smoking the ball over my head like this, you know.
I'm thinking, All right. I got to fix this. (Laughter.) I'll do that tonight when I'm on stage and I do my thing and I'll put my weight on this fun time. What you said is so true: This event is so much more than just a tournament. It's a weekend of a blast.
And it's not just us having the fun. The spectators are all a part of so much of the stuff. So but then today I got to outdrive you once.
BRITTANY LINCICOME: I let him. (Laughter.)
LEE BRICE: (Winking).
COLT FORD: I did, too; I outdrove her.
LEE BRICE: I did have some lateral shots, but I did have one that went right down the middle.
But I really am just so blessed, because this is such a family, Diamond Resorts in general. So to be a part of something so family oriented, that you believe in each other, and then to have somebody like you to have brilliant ideas like this to make something like this so big.
It's so exciting to have LPGA to have an event like this. Now we get to come hang with ya'll some more, and I'm excited about that.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We'll move over to you, Colt. You actually have a really unique connection to this as a former professional golfer and now you make your living as a musician.
This has to be a great way, I would think, to really marry the two loves of your life here.
COLT FORD: It is. I've been lucky. Most people think male model when they see me, but I actually did play professional golf for a living. I used to could play pretty good.
I was lucky to do that. I played golf at the University of Georgia and then went on and played for quite a while and taught for quite a while. I think one of the most underrated things is how incredibly good the girls are on the LPGA Tour. I don't think people really realize it, and this is going to be a great way to start it off and showcase it.
And to have some of great athletes and celebrities that are there, it's just a neat thing to be a part of, the whole atmosphere. I was the first musical artist that got involved with Diamond Resorts, and Mike and I have become good friends as we've watched it grow and watched what's happened with just this golf event.
But just overall Diamond Resorts, it's about taking care of people and making sure they have fun, making sure they enjoy it, and create memories of a lifetime.
All the girls on the LPGA I've seen really get that. I mean, some of my buddies, the younger guys on the PGA Tour, I'm on them a lot going, You guys are making so much money that you kind of forget what's really going on out here. I don't think that's been lost at all with the LPGA.
What Mike is doing in continuing to grow Diamond Resorts and other Mike continuing to grow the LPGA -- both of them play good.
MIKE WHAN: I like that when he says we play good.
COLT FORD: He did. But the parties, the things, the functions, it's just an unbelievable experience. I hope you guys can all be a part of it and get there and see what's going on. The camaraderie and the fun that happens is neat.
It'll be a serious event. It's fun to be up close. It's not fun when Brittany hits it by you. I mean, that's not fun. But I hit it by her today and she knows it. She knows it. She knows. I'm not going to say it but a few more times, but she definitely knows it.
I got to meet her and some of the other girls and we become friends and we text and send stupid messages and stuff. Well, I send stupid messages. But for us, more times than not I'm texting her when I'm getting ready to go to bed and she's getting up to go to work.
So it's fun to see that interaction and hang out. It's going to be a pretty special event. I can't think of anything better than to have the LPGA be a part of it, and realize how truly good these girls are.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open the floor up for any questions.
Q. This is for Mike Whan and Brittany. How important is it, first of all, just to start the season domestically, and also to be on network TV right out of the gates? Ratings have been really strong in the Bahamas for the LPGA season opener, so to take that next step on network.
MIKE WHAN: Yeah, I think the first part of your question you kind of answered. It's important for other people to know too that the Bahamas has been a gold mine for us from a TV rating perspective. If you think about it generally, it's the middle of January so a lot of the country is not thinking about golf. So to turn on TV, it's fun to watch.
Domestic starts are perfect. Even though we're a global tour, as most of you who follow us know, I would say 95% of our players get ready for the tour in America, so if our first event isn't in America, we're all traveling there, even the players who may not have been born there.
So I was just in player dining and getting high fives about an Orlando event. I just thought about everybody that left, and none of those people actually were born in America that said thank you for the Orlando start.
So it's a pretty exciting thing. I think we don't have drivable events, right? So to have one to start the season is pretty awesome. From what I understand, I'm going to need a designated driver on some of these nights, and I'm happy to do that.
But I've said this many times: The height, the elevation of the LPGA is completely contingent on the vision of partners that we partner with. Every once in a while you meet somebody who just thinks and dreams bigger than you. Talk to Mike for about ten minutes, and you'll talk to somebody who you instantly say, that's a visionary guy. He's thinking faster than I talk, which is difficult.
It was exciting. So when I started talking to him and I said, Well, what about -- and he was already three steps beyond that.
So for us at the LPGA, we're going to be as big and as powerful and as different as the people who think. If you're interested in big and different, that's what Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions is going to be. It's going to be big, it's going to be different, and it's to be fun.
I think that's completely based on their vision. We're just lucky to be smart enough to tag along.
BRITTANY LINCICOME: We might be able to know somebody to get you a place on property so you don't have to drive. That's very smart.
MIKE WHAN: I've actually got a week-long pass.
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Wait, that's mine.
LEE BRICE: That's in Cabo.
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Mike hit the nail on the head. Any time you can drive to an event -- I mean, it's like an hour and a half from my front door, which what better place to start the season than in a nice normally warm environment in your backyard. I love it.
THE MODERATOR: For the other Mike, I think you played alongside Brooke; is that right?
MIKE FLASKEY: Yeah.
Q. Playing alongside the handful of ladies that have participated in your event, is that what got your mind thinking about this next level?
MIKE FLASKEY: Yes. Thank you for the question. Actually, it was very instrumental. We've had Lexi Thomson. We've had Brooke Henderson both years. We've had Brittany both years. We've had Brittany Lang both years. Lexi hurt her hand this year and Gerina Pillar came in and played.
So I took the opportunity to spend time with each of the ladies from the LPGA. One of the things that really jumped out at me is their engagement. They understand the businesses-to-business aspect of a company trying to activate sponsorships and why companies do that.
You know, compared to others that I saw, they would go a little further and the extra mile to engage, whether it's social media, coming to the events in the evening and that sort of thing.
Then there is the competitive element of it, right? One of the unique elements in the past was that the ladies and the guys tee'd up from the same tees. To see the pride and see them go out and compete I thought was also very meaningful.
This year in the first round I was paired with Brooke Henderson and John Cook. In the first round it rained a couple different times, it was blowing sustained 25 the whole time, and Brooke shot 66 and never missed a shot.
I said, Yes, that's real. So yes is the answer to your question.
THE MODERATOR: Further questions? All right, well, gentlemen, Brittany, thank you so very much for your support of the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. We're very happy to have you join the LPGA family.
Before we leave, I would like to hand Mike and Mike some things to hand over to Brittany for our event.
MIKE FLASKEY: Great.
COLT FORD: How can we get everything?
LEE BRICE: Are we chopped liver?
MIKE FLASKEY: Brittany, we would like to give you the Tumi backpack for winning the Pure Silk Championship this year in the Bahamas and earning your ticket to play in the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions in 2019. Congratulations. (Applause).
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Thank you.
MIKE FLASKEY: There have been how many tournaments so far this year?
MIKE WHAN: Four.
MIKE FLASKEY: Four tournaments and four amazing winners that will be in the field, so we're very excited about all that.
COLT FORD: Me and you don't get no backpacks, Lee. (Laughter.)
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports