Blue would like to see more special LPGA events, such as skins games, team tournaments with the male pros and limited-field match-play events, to showcase stars. He also believes international team play, along the lines of the Ryder Cup, would lend weight to women's golf. Blue recently visited PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra, Fla., to observe firsthand what the men's tours are doing right.
"I feel comfortable that I know where the LPGA ought to go, but I'm listening and learning," says Blue. "I want quantitative and qualitative reasons for why the LPGA hasn't been a better marketing vehicle, and we have to identify what the market for women's golf is. Right now, the public is still diffident about what the LPGA represents."
The women are off to a good start in 1989. Oldsmobile replaced Mazda as sponsor of the year's first full-field tournament, in Boca Raton, Fla., last month, and increased the purse from $200,000 to $300,000. The Jamaica Tourist Board has taken over sponsorship of the bonus pool and has increased the kitty to $500,000. The LPGA still has open dates, but Blue hopes that as the PGA and Senior tours become more and more crowded and expensive, sponsors will turn to the LPGA.
In sports leagues, perception can quickly become reality. Blue must promote a positive image that his players can be comfortable with. "More than ever, the players have to take responsibility for their image," says Mann. "For years, they've been told they had to be sold as something other than just the best players in the world. Now they have the chance to sell themselves, and be accepted, as great athletes."
That's all the LPGA has ever really wanted. The women may continue to finish third in golf's three-horse race, but if Blue can bring the LPGA some respect, he will have been a success. "Nobody expects anything from the LPGA," says marketing man Campbell. "If Blue does anything at all, he's going to look like a hero."