FEATURE-Golf-Japan women' tour thrives with wholesome sponsorship, full schedule

Dec 28 (Reuters) – The Japanese LPGA Tour quietly celebrated its fiftieth season this yr with a full schedule and bonafide claims to being extra well-liked than the nation’s stagnant males’s circuit.

With 38 tournaments in 2017, and just one vacant week on the schedule between March and November, the JLPGA Tour’s complete prize cash of three.7 billion yen ($32.sixty six million) provides gamers the prospect to earn an excellent dwelling with out having to go away for the elite U.S. ladies’s tour.

By comparability, the Japanese males’s tour could have simply 25 tournaments subsequent yr, one fewer than 2017.

The Japanese ladies’s circuit additionally attracts greater galleries and home tv audiences than the lads’s tour, with a mean Sunday score some 30 % greater, in accordance with a event promoter who has seen the official figures.

JLGPA Commissioner Hiromi Kobayashi says many Japanese corporations choose to sponsor ladies’s tournaments as a result of the gamers make an enormous effort to make sure the professional-am is an fulfilling expertise for these footing the invoice.

It doesn’t harm that the ladies additionally play a recreation that the typical participant can relate to, she says.

“A lot of the sponsors say that’s the distinction between the lads’s and the feminine execs,” Kobayashi informed Reuters.

“The visitors have enjoyable with the feminine execs, who hit driver virtually the identical size. That’s what they are saying. The gamers are pleasant and so the friends can have a superb time with the feminine execs.”

The professional-ams are so essential to the tour that rookie gamers are required to attend a full-day seminar to study enterprise etiquette and the way to entertain shoppers.

And by protecting prize cash at a comparatively modest degree, sponsorship of the tour can also be reasonably priced to many corporations, a enterprise mannequin that helps keep a full schedule.

However, prize cash has been nudging up just lately, growing during the last six years to a report in 2017. The 2018 schedule once more options 38 tournaments and prize cash of 37 million yen.

Six gamers topped the one hundred million yen mark this yr, led by Ai Suzuki’s one hundred forty million yen ($1.25 million). By comparability, Park Sung-hyun, the main cash earner on the U.S.-based mostly LPGA Tour, raked in $2.35 million in prize cash final yr.

Of the six Japanese members of the LPGA Tour in 2017, Haru Nomura was the very best earner with $520,000.

The U.S. LPGA, which performs a worldwide schedule, had complete prize cash of $sixty five million, which incorporates $24 million for a dozen tournaments performed outdoors North America.

LIFE BALANCE

The usual of competitors just isn’t as excessive in Japan, and the typical purse of about 1 million yen is lower than the LPGA, however the twin points of interest of enjoying a full schedule and brief-distance journey has attracted the likes of Shin Ji-yai, a two-occasions British Open winner who give up the USA to play in Japan.

Kobayashi, a former prime participant who gained 4 occasions throughout her days on the LPGA Tour, stated the three-day tournaments are one of many Tour’s largest points of interest.

“An occasion is cheaper (to sponsor) than the lads, and just one-third of our tournaments are 4-day occasions. The remaining are over three rounds,” she stated.

South Korean Shin gained eleven occasions on the LPGA circuit earlier than deciding she most popular to play primarily in Japan, solely a two-hour flights from residence.

She has an condo in Tokyo and enjoys the prospect to unwind for a few days between occasions, earlier than catching a brief flight or excessive-velocity practice experience to the subsequent occasion.

“On Sundays I’m going again to my place, take off a few days to loosen up and refresh, so it seems like my life stability is a lot better,” stated Shin, who has racked up 17 wins in Japan.

She stated the ladies’s tour was extra fashionable than the lads’s in Japan, identical to her native South Korea.

“Individuals like their ardour and kindness,” she stated of the ladies’s gamers.

“So many individuals come out to cheer for us, and it makes it so thrilling, a lot enjoyable,” stated Shin, who speaks fluent Japanese in addition to English.

“I’m very snug right here.”

Not that the JLPGA doesn’t have its challenges, amongst them the close to invisibility of their tournaments outdoors the nation, except for South Korea.

”The JLPGA doesn’t even have an English web site,” stated Junko Ogawa, a veteran golf journalist whose web site, tochro-golf.com, chronicles the game in Japan.

”The Korea LPGA, China LPGA and even the Thai LPGA have English web sites, however not Japan.

“That may be a actual drawback. It means anybody who can’t learn Japanese can’t discover out something concerning the tour.” ($1 = 113.2800 yen) (Modifying by Peter Rutherford)

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