If Brittany Lincicome had managed a par on the 72nd hole last Sunday, the 2014 LPGA Championship and the tour’s Rochester tenure would have ended in an understated way: third-round leader holds off wave of challengers, captures major title. Appropriately (and unfortunately for Lincicome) that’s not how events unfolded. Par was not to be and a playoff was the order of the day. The steely Inbee Park found a way to par the first playoff hole and claim a second consecutive LPGA Championship. Lincicome came off as a champion as well, answering all questions posed, signing all autographs and even engaging in a Twitter back-and-forth with @buffalogolfer as she crossed the Peace Bridge into Canada. Tears, poise, interaction…all hallmarks of what the LPGA came to represent for Rochester, and what the city near Lake Ontario came to symbolize for the LPGA Tour.
It wasn’t long ago that the LPGA found itself struggling to stay afloat in the world of competitive professional golf. There was talk that nearly every male tour worldwide had more popularity, even the ones that featured men on their fourth set of teeth and second pair of knees (or shoulders, or hips, or wrists.) Out with the old, in with the new and just like that, the LPGA Tour found itself in a renaissance. That’s what makes the departure from Rochester so injuriously ironic. A city that stood by the tour through its darkest hour finds itself without a tournament. Is there anyone to blame? Might one blame the sponsors, the host club, the volunteers, the players, the civic organization? Certainly one could, but one might not have a properly-aimed arrow in any of those cases.
The way it appears, Wegman’s determined it needed to go in a different direction a few years back and gave the LPGA Tour ample time to find a new paradigm for its premier tournament. It did more than anyone expected, going into a partnership with the PGA of America, a (gasp) men’s organization, to give the LPGA Championship a new name (Women’s PGA Championship), new venues (Westchester CC in 2015) and an untapped sponsor (KPMG). The only ones who didn’t benefit, the ones who appear to have been shunted aside, are Rochester. And it stings. And it’s unfortunate. And it’s unfair.
And hopefully, it’s temporary. Rochester has more good golf courses than most premier cities. It has Oak Hill West, an unspoiled Donald Ross that the members prefer ten-to-one over the heralded (and butchered) East course. It has Irondequoit, CCRochester and Monroe (this year’s site), three more Ross tracks that would offer incredible golf for the female professionals. Rochester is an LPGA town these days. Here’s hoping that the LPGA, civic leaders and a deep-pockets sponsor agree.
Thanks to Alex Fisher of Alex Fisher Photo for the photographs