"We felt the time had come when we should expand," says Cynthia Sullivan, who was president of the LPGA at the time. "Lenny wanted to keep on running the tour by himself. We wanted a tour director as well as someone schooled in public relations who could set up tournaments for us."
What the girls really disliked was Wirtz' abrasive, overly authoritative behavior in public, which many of them felt hurt the tour. Too often tournament sponsors failed to renew contracts for a second year. So, late in 1969, Wirtz went. In his place as executive director the girls hired E.M. (Bud) Erickson, a tall, quiet, good-looking man of 47 who was once with the front office of the Atlanta Falcons. What Erickson inherited was not exactly rubble but it was a tour without an awful lot of tournaments. The number had dropped from 32 in 1968 to 28 in 1969 to 21 in 1970. The corresponding loss of money is reflected in the 1970 earnings of Kathy Whitworth, who led the ladies with $30,235, the lowest high figure since 1965. The year before, Miss Whitworth had earned $48,000 and had finished second in total earnings.
"I'm not going to knock Lenny," Erickson said the day before the Sears tournament began, "but I don't think you can spend your time as a basketball referee in the winter and still do your best for the girls."
What Erickson has done is take on Gene McCauliff as full-time tournament director and increase the number of tournaments to a probable 25 (and, since the schedule is not yet complete, possibly 30). Total prize money should top $750,000, the highest ever. It was Erickson who worked out the Sears tournament, and he has arranged to have the LPGA Championship in June sponsored by Eve cigarettes. In May the Sealy mattress people will back a tournament in Las Vegas, and at the end of the year Eve will give a trophy and $10,000 to the leading players on the tour. So perhaps bigger money is coming to the ladies' tour at last. As far as Ruth Jessen is concerned, it couldn't happen at a better time.