Lexington, KY – Another professional golf tour could be making a stop in Central Kentucky.
Efforts are underway to bring an LPGA Tour event to the Lexington area as soon as 2013 after a small group from the Bluegrass Sports Commission met with LPGA officials earlier this month. A few hurdles remain, but if successful, the new tournament could deliver a multimillion dollar jolt to the local economy while raising the Lexington area’s sporting profile for events other than college basketball.
Bluegrass Sports Commission executive director Terry Johnson and Brooks Downing, the organization’s board chair, made the trip from Lexington to Sylvania, Ohio, for a five-hour meeting with a tour delegation during the LPGA’s Jamie Farr Classic. Both sides stopped well short of saying a finalized deal is imminent, though each agreed talks appear to be heading in that direction.
If that deal is eventually completed, the new event would join the NGA Hooters Tour’s Cherry Blossom Classic – which has been played at Cherry Blossom Golf and Country Club in Georgetown since 2008 – as the only professional golf tour events in Central Kentucky. It would also mark the first time a pro golf tour stops in Lexington since the Bank One Classic senior event was last played at Kearney Hills Links in 1997 following a 15-year run (It was first played at Griffin Gate Golf Club from 1983-1989).
“Nothing is at the point of which anything definitive is being said other than the LPGA is very interested in being in Kentucky and we’re excited to explore it,” said Greg Conrad, vice president of tournament business affairs for the LPGA. “We’re definitely in the infant stages, but I’d say the initial conversations were very positive.”
The expected cost to start and operate such an event is an estimated $3-3.5 million, with $1.5 million covered by a title sponsor. The Bluegrass Sports Commission has engaged a handful of national sports business agencies during the past week for help with securing that title sponsor, though a decision as to which agency will be retained has yet to be decided.
A venue also needs to be secured. Richard Maloney, the city’s Chief Administrative Officer, indicated Kearney Hills – given its history with the Bank One Classic from 1990-1997 – may eventually be the choice, but added that all area courses would be engaged to determine which would be chosen as the tournament site. And a Duramed Futures Tour event could be up for grabs as part of the deal, as indications are the LPGA Tour (which owns the Futures Tour) will likely opt not to return to London, Ky., after four-years at Crooked Creek Golf Club.