- Alistair Tait
The LET bandwagon starts rolling
Official golf partnership announcements don’t normally warrant a second glance, but the Ladies European Tour put out news of one yesterday that demands a little focus.
It might just be proof the LET bandwagon has started to roll, and that blue-chip companies want to jump on board.
Titleist has joined forces with the LET to become an official partner for the next three years. Titleist, which markets itself as the number one ball in golf, will provide ProV1 balls to tournament practice ranges on the LET schedule. The partnership starts in May with the Investec South African Women’s Open, the opening event of a record breaking €19 million, 27-tournament LET schedule.
LET chief executive Alex Armas said:
“Titleist is committed to supporting the women’s game on all levels, and we are delighted to welcome such a prestigious brand to the LET family as an ‘Official Partner’. It is really exciting when relationships like this flourish.”
Why is this relationship important? Because it’s further proof the LET is on an upward curve after years in steep decline. As I highlighted recently, four years ago the circuit appeared to be headed for oblivion. No wonder stars like Charley Hull, Carlotta Ciganda, Anna Nordqvist, Georgia Hall, Catriona Matthew, Bronte Law and others saw the LPGA has a more viable home than the LET. It certainly wasn’t an attractive option for potential partnerships with reputable companies like Titleist. There were just 15 tournaments left on the 2017 schedule when the disastrous dominos of a series of knucklehead moves fell into place.
What dominos were those? Here’s two: the tour made the strange decision to hire former World Series of Boxing boss Ivan Khodabakhsh as CEO even though he had no experience of golf, and paid the price; secondly, the circuit turned down a $6 million merger with the LPGA that would have brought instant benefit.
As Matthew said in 2017:
“I think the product’s there. They have got a lot of good players. It’s just perhaps they have the wrong person at the head. Hopefully if they can get that resolved, it can start building itself up again.”
Oh, how those words have proved prophetic. The tour got rid of the hapless Khodabakhsh, took the LPGA’s merger offer, and it is starting to build itself up again.
Matthew’s correct to say the product is there, and the players. The circuit might not have the depth of the LPGA but, as Europe proved in winning the 2019 Solheim Cup at Gleneagles, the LET's elite can match the LPGA’s best. As for product, the LPGA alliance has been a godsend, according to Laura Davies:
“It’s been great for us to get mentioned in the same breath as the LPGA, and that’s what’s happening all the time at the moment,” Davies told Global Golf Post. “The women feel better about themselves, our sponsors are impressed, and the fans love it.”
If sponsors like Titleist are obviously impressed enough to jump on board the LET bandwagon, then surely that heralds more five-star passengers hitching a ride? That's great news for a circuit that has punched below its weight for far too long, and for aspiring European women looking to make golf their career.
#JustSaying: “Women playing in trousers must take their trousers off before entering the clubhouse.” Sign that hung briefly at Royal St Georges Golf Club in the 1920s