LPGA Tour moving into Taiwan

As it looks to the east for salvation, the LPGA Tour has announced that one of its 2011 events will be in Taiwan.

That the embattled LPGA Tour is looking to the east for salvation has clearly been underlined by its recent announcement that it is to run its first tournament in Taiwan.

The island nation’s inaugural LPGA Tour event is to be called the LPGA Taiwan Championship and is set to take place at the prestigious Sunrise Golf & Country Club in Taoyuan from October 27-30, 2011

And with a prize fund of $2 million this full field event is expected to attract a strong international field at a moment in time when the opportunity for professional women’s golfers to earn money in the US has been drying up alarmingly.

The event will join other LPGA tournaments in Japan, Korea, Singapore and Thailand and the fact that Taiwan is the latest Asian nation to get an event on the world’s premier women’s tour is surely no coincidence.

With the retirement of Mexico’s Lorena Ocha, women’s golf is abuzz with names as a small band of international golfers fight it out to replace her.

Japanese icon Ai Miyazato is currently top of the World Rankings, American Cristie Kerr, in second place, is very much in the mix and so too are Korean Jiya Shin, who briefly claimed the World No 1 spot in the week after Ochoa’s retirement, and fast-rising Taiwan star, Yani Tseng.

Tseng who edged Michelle Wie, another of the Tour’s exciting young pretenders, in Arkansas on Sunday after having already won two of her three major titles this year (the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the Ricoh’s Women’s British Open), has helped put golf very firmly on the map in her homeland and it is not surprising that sponsors, so short in the USA right now, have been easy to find in Taiwan.

Tseng, who could be hard to beat in the LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award this year, is easily the leading Chinese-speaking golfer in the world with sufficient talent and inclination to win a lot more tournaments.

Indeed, it’s very possible that her heroics will bring further events to Taiwan just as Ocha did in Mexico.

During the period when Ochoa dominated women’s golf – her reign followed that of Swedish great Annika Sorenstam – the number of LPGA Tour events in Mexico went from one to three and it’s more than possible that with all the Asian talent on the LPGA Tour right now, the east will soon be hosting as many events as it is on the men’s European Tour.

Indeed the European Tour has become very much a global tour with its number of tournaments in Asia, the Middle East, Australia and South Africa almost matching those in Europe and following the alarming shrinkage that has taken place on the US-based LPGA Tour where one sponsor after another has turned tail and run in the face of the hard economic times.

That looks to be the route the LPGA is going to follow.