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July 18, 2007
NEW ROCHELLE, NEW YORK
CAROLYN BIVENS: Good afternoon. This is one of those press conferences that I actually believe is certainly the LPGA, and I think the sports world, will look back a number of years from now and see as a demarcation, certainly in women's sports, and certainly in women's golf.
Since 1999, the Duramed FUTURES Tour has served as the official developmental tour of the LPGA, but it's been independently owned and operated. The Duramed FUTURES Tour offers rising stars in the women's game the opportunity to prepare for a career on the LPGA, and they do a great job of preparing them.
For the past eight years, the Duramed FUTURES Tour has operated in a licensee role with the LPGA. I'm pleased to announce that the LPGA has acquired the Duramed FUTURES Tour. I'd like to ask Zayra Calderon and Libba Galloway to join me up here.
While they are doing that, in recent years, the organizations have worked closely to align business practices to assist the members of both tours with professional development and to prepare members of Duramed FUTURES Tour for a career transition to the LPGA. One of the very tangible examples of the way the organizations have worked together has been the awarding of the LPGA Tour cards by the top first three, and then Top-5 Duramed FUTURES Tour players. We are very fortunate to have some of these women here and I'm going to introduce them in just a second.
Since 1999, 32 FUTURES Tour players have earned their exempt LPGA cards via this partnership. Just understand, I had said how very well these women have been prepared on the Duramed FUTURES Tour. Of the 32 women who have earned their cards since 1999, only four have lost their cards. A few examples of the players who have transitioned from the Duramed ranks into the LPGA ranks, and I'm going to ask those of you who are in the room to join us when I read your name: Lorena Ochoa, Meaghan Francella, Grace Park, Christina Kim, Stacy Prammanasudh, Jimin Kang who I think is on her way back here as well; Lindsey Wright, Nicole Castrale, Seon-Hwa Lee, Kyeong Eun Bae, Nicole Castrale and In-Bee Park.
The Duramed FUTURES Tour has so far proven to be the very best pipeline for longevity and staying power for success on the LPGA, and we are thrilled and looking very forward to incorporating the Duramed FUTURES Tour into the LPGA family, the staff and the players.
It's created a rewarding and challenging and a very competitive environment for aspiring stars to hone their skills, to learn how to schedule travel, handle the media and to compete at a very high level; prepare for a career on the world stage on the LPGA.
With this acquisition, we believe that the LPGA will not only have greater knowledge of who is coming up that pipeline, what their talents are, what their skills and what the stories are about these women and future stars of the LPGA. We also believe that this acquisition is going to enable the LPGA to better shape women's professional golf. This acquisition speaks volumes to the strength of women's professional golf and specifically to the LPGA, the women's professional golf in the United States.
The women of the LPGA are the best golfers in the world, and as of today, we're confident that through the acquisition of the Duramed FUTURES Tour, the LPGA will continue to deliver the very best golf for generations to come. We're excited about the growth and the economic opportunities for both of these organizations, and the sport of women's golf in general.
On behalf of the entire LPGA membership, we welcome Zayra Calderon on my right, the entire Duramed FUTURES Tour staff, and their membership whom we look forward to working as one, continue to entertain and inspire our fans.
Now, I want to ask -- I'm going to go first to my left. It's my pleasure to introduce Libba Galloway, who is the Deputy Commissioner of the LPGA. This acquisition hasn't been one that's been particularly fast, and Libba has been behind the scenes shaping the details and making this work so that it's going to be a huge win for fans, for sponsors and for players.
So Libba, I'm going to let you address some of the details.
LIBBA GALLOWAY: Okay. As Carolyn said, we're really excited about this. We think it's going to be beneficial for both of our tours and it's just a really good thing for women's professional golf.
What you're not going to see immediately with this acquisition is a lot of dramatic change. We're both in the middle of our seasons, and while we are going to be merging some of our operations, primarily the back office operations starting right away, you're not going to see changes in the tour this season.
What we are going to do is when we finish our seasons, we are going to move the Duramed FUTURES Tour headquarters in Lakeland, Florida to our headquarters at Daytona Beach, and we anticipate that the Duramed FUTURES Tour staff will be in Daytona Beach by the end of the year. And we will gradually, where it makes sense, we will combine functions with the Duramed FUTURES Tour and the LPGA. And I think it's really from an operations standpoint and from the product that we put in front of the world, it's really a win/win for both of us.
From a player standpoint, you know, we're here for the players, and one of the reasons that we did this is for the players and what we think it will do for them and for women's professional golf.
Again, you're not going to see any dramatic changes in our tours. We will continue to operate the Duramed FUTURES Tour as a separate tour, but we will be examining ways after our seasons end, ways that we can perhaps make it easier and better for players to go back and forth on both of the tours.
We're just really excited about this acquisition, and I'll turn it over to Carolyn and Zayra.
CAROLYN BIVENS: Zayra Calderon acquired the FUTURES Tour in 1996. The FUTURES Tour and the course it's taken and what it's become is is largely as a result of the blood, sweat, long hours, tears and this woman just willing it to be. For those of you who have worked with Zayra and seen the results of her work, you'll know what I mean. For those of you who don't, you're going to find out in just a few minutes.
One of the things that we get here is not just a dynamic developmental pipeline. What we also get is some real experience and insight and entrepreneurship had into the LPGA. Zayra will not only remain as CEO of the Duramed FUTURES Tour; she'll also be a senior member of the LPGA staff. Zayra?
ZAYRA CALDERON: Thanks, Carolyn. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. This proves that a membership of over 300 women can keep a secret for over six months; contrary to anything anybody would think (laughter). We managed to do that.
Nine years ago, I came to Wykagyl to make a presentation to the board of directors of the LPGA. I proposed that they designate the then FUTURES Tour, now Duramed FUTURES Tour, the official developmental tour of the LPGA. The players voted in 1999 to allow a change to the Constitution so that we could become the official developmental tour of the LPGA, and by virtue of that, allow the top three players on the Money List to move on as exempt players on to the LPGA at the end of the season.
In 2003, the board and the membership again changed the number of cards and increased that to five cards. It's really wonderful for me to know that I come back to the same place where it all began in a way. It's been a very, very quick nine years in some ways and a very wonderful cooperative relationship. We worked together for nine years in many forms, but always in a cooperative way. It never came to say, you should do this and you should work together on some things. Every organization has their priorities, and it's difficult sometimes if they are competing.
But now that we are strategically aligned and now that we are under one roof, we will be able to march to the same drum and continue to promote professional women's golf. I think that our efforts and our cooperative efforts have really culminated in the best option, the best possible option for women's golf all under one umbrella. So we are pulling the Duramed FUTURES Tour under the LPGA roof, and now we will march to one plan, one strategy to continue to promote professional women's golf.
As Carolyn said, it's very, very difficult to finish a deal and come up and say, 'This is all the things we're going to change; we're going to take our time. We want to do the right things. And there's so many synergies. We're in the same business essentially. We do the same thing. Our tournaments are a little smaller, our markets are a little smaller, but we aspire for the same things.
The first thing we will do is continue to integrate our player development program. We have established a foundation but now we will work more focused with the player development staff of the LPGA, and we certainly want to make sure that the Five Points of Celebrity are fully integrated with our players.
We want to expand our tournament markets. We see this as a great opportunity to increase our fan base, to increase market share, to take this exceptionally wonderful and exciting sports property to many more places within this continent and on to the international world.
We will also provide opportunities for our sponsors to add 19 markets or 20 markets if they want to. All in all, we will provide the current stars of the LPGA or the future stars of the LPGA an opportunity to showcase their talent in many more places across the United States and abroad.
Many of the successful players on the LPGA came from the Duramed FUTURES Tour. The number is above 290 of alums on the LPGA and many of them have been very successful in the first year they come to the LPGA, the second year and subsequent years. I have to my right and to my left great examples in Nicole Castrale and Meaghan Francella and Jimin Kang.
The card winners are also, as Carolyn talked about before, have been very successful, not just the players that come through winning the cards through our program, but also the players that get their exempt status through playing at Q-School. In about six weeks, we will be awarding the next five players the same status on to the LPGA at our tournament in Albany. And I will tell you, last week, Taylor Leon, the University of Georgia graduate won our tournament in Connecticut; and Liz Janangelo, the standout from Duke, is running away to try and get one of those cards.
All in all, I believe that this is an acquisition that was long due. Whenever I talk to the media, they always say, 'Why isn't the LPGA in charge of the Duramed FUTURES Tour.' Well, they are now. So here's your answer. For the reasons that you thought, we did it.
A lot of credit to Carolyn and her leadership. She decided this was the right thing to do to push things forward, and she convinced us to do whatever steps we needed to be taken to make this a reality.
I'm looking forward. I think this decisively, decisively gives us a lot more firing power to move forward and do all of the things that we are capable of doing to promote professional women's golf as a valuable property all together among all of the sports in this country and around the world.
So if you couldn't tell, I'm excited. I'm dying to stand up because I don't know how to do this thing sitting down, but I'd be delighted to stay here and answer your questions when we are done. Thank you.
CAROLYN BIVENS: Before we open for questions, I'd like to hear from some of the players, which it's really about the players. It's about playing opportunity. It will benefit fans and offer more opportunities for fans to see not just current talent, but future talent for the LPGA. And it will offer -- it will open up opportunities for sponsors, as well.
I'm going to start over here to my left, one of our Rolex First-Time Winners, Nicole Castrale who came to us through the Duramed FUTURES Tour.
NICOLE CASTRALE: Thanks, Carolyn. The Duramed FUTURES Tour, even a couple of years ago was a great opportunity for me. I had lost status out here, so it was somewhere for me to play and just to have the chance to be able to regain status on the LPGA and through the FUTURES Tour is such a great opportunity.
I mean, the game we play doesn't know what tour we play on. It doesn't know the golf course, doesn't know what part of the world we're on. So pretty much a 7-iron is a 7-iron. So you pretty much have to figure it out out on the FUTURES Tour. I was lucky to be able to get my first two wins on the FUTURES Tour as pro, and you just have to keep on grinding out there just like you do out here on the LPGA Tour.
The funny thing is, I think I was more nervous in my first win on the FUTURES Tour than I actually was on the LPGA, because I mean, in some sense, I felt like I had won before; maybe not on the stage of the LPGA, but I have won a professional event.
So I would just like to thank the Duramed FUTURES Tour for giving me the opportunity to get back to the LPGA and to reach my goals.
CAROLYN BIVENS: Thanks, Nicole. Also another one of our Rolex First-Time Winners this year, Meaghan Francella, one of last year's card winners.
MEAGHAN FRANCELLA: I'm fortunate enough to be sponsored by the Duramed FUTURES Tour. Like Nicole said, we had a great opportunity out there. The Duramed FUTURES Tour prepared us tremendously, and I think Jimin will agree with us.
Like Nicole said, you learned to win out there. You learn how to travel, you learn how to manage your time. The FUTURES Tour has come a long way in the last couple of years. I played for 2 1/2 seasons and just saw tremendous results since I've been out there.
Like Nicole said, I want to thank you for everything you guys did for us.
CAROLYN BIVENS: And Jimin?
JIMIN KANG: I guess I graduated the FUTURES Tour a couple of years ago. I choose to go back to the FUTURES Tour because I lost -- I wasn't successful getting to the LPGA through the Q-School, and that was definitely a way better chance because I get more than a week to get on the LPGA Tour.
So, I decided to go on the FUTURES Tour and I went through that. I gained my experience of playing golf, traveling and managing my time and meeting all of these different people through the Pro-Am. So definitely it was a lot of good experience for me learning how to prepare myself getting on to the LPGA Tour and at the same time, I feel that I met a lot of great people, having more support and making of fans.
So I definitely want to thank you for everything and for giving us an opportunity to get up here.
CAROLYN BIVENS: The players have agreed to stay up here so we'll open, if you all have any questions for anyone up here.
Q. For Carolyn or one of the other two, I realize it's early and you don't have to talk about changes you're going to make, but do you envision a scenario where will you award more cards at the end of the season?
LIBBA GALLOWAY: That's something we will take a look at. We don't right now. We haven't decided to do that. But we have -- both of us in our -- every year at the end of the season, we've sat down and looked at our rules and our regulations and policies and have thought about what changes would make sense for us as we go forward in our business. Zayra has done the same thing at the Duramed FUTURES Tour, so I imagine that at the end of the year, we'll sit down selectively like we have in the past and look at things just like that.
But right now, I can't say whether we will do it or we will not do it.
Q. Will Duramed FUTURES Tour remain branded in the title of the Tour?
CAROLYN BIVENS: Yes, they will. The contract that exists with Duramed will certainly not only be honored, but we'll see how much further we can take that and what else we'll be able to do with it. In fact, right before we came in here, I had met the CEO and we both talked to Bruce Downey right before we came in here. He's been very much a part of this.
Q. And again, it's early, but is there any way you can gauge what impact there might be on, say, number of events or size of purses?
LIBBA GALLOWAY: I think again that's something that we'll take a look at, you know, what makes sense for us.
I don't think there's any of us who would sit here and say we don't want purse size to increase. We wouldn't have done this deal if we didn't think that it was going to be better and both the LPGA Tour and the Duramed FUTURES Tour would be bigger and better organizations.
I would certainly hope that as we become bigger and better that we will see increased purses, but right now, I think it's too early to say exactly how that's going to play out. And I would say the same thing on the number of tournaments and the size of the tours. We'll take a look at that and plan it very strategically as we go along.
ZAYRA CALDERON: Our current strategy calls for increased purses anyway, and the LPGA has worked with us on our current strategy. So we were marching already to a goal of having a minimum purse of $100,000 for next year, and we certainly feel that we're going to be there.
CAROLYN BIVENS: What this obviously offers without getting into any specifics, a lot of which just plain aren't worked out right now, is that outside the world of golf or the world of sports, it's not unusual at all for brands to have different tiers of products and we are now seeing that in the sports world, as well.
Certainly that then offers opportunities for a lot more sponsors to select where in the different tiering do they or their communities best fit; and that may change over given times.
Thank you all very much.
End of FastScripts