DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) is experiencing double- and triple-digit increases in attendance, television viewership and LPGA.com traffic, most notably during the first three major championships of the season, an indication that fan demand for the LPGA and its stars is on the rise. Growing viewership and attendance are key objectives of the LPGA's Fans First strategic business plan, which was introduced in 2002 at the first-ever Player Summit.
Attendance during the Kraft Nabisco Championship, McDonald's LPGA Championship Presented by Coca-Cola and U.S. Women's Open conducted by the USGA increased an average of 14 percent when compared to 2004 and featured a record attendance of 131,298 at the U.S. Women's Open. Television viewership experienced double-digit increases as a whole, with weekend network telecasts of the first three majors featuring 15-, 30- and 59-percent increases, respectively-an average increase of 44 percent on the weekends over 2004 numbers. Additionally, LPGA.com set record traffic numbers during the first three majors of the season when compared to the same time period in 2004, no doubt due to the incredible performance of Annika Sorenstam and her quest for the Grand Slam, as well as increased attention and interest in the stars of the LPGA Tour like Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Lorena Ochoa and Jennifer Rosales, as well as amateurs Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie.
"The LPGA has so much good news to share as of late," said Ty M. Votaw, LPGA commissioner. "Our players are performing at an unbelievable level, challenging and breaking records on an almost weekly basis. Annika Sorenstam's quest for the Grand Slam this season captured the hearts and minds of golf fans across the globe, and an uprising of a fiercely talented pool of young players, both amateur and LPGA Tour members, has arrived to test veterans who are still performing at top levels.
"Our attendance, television and Web site numbers tell a successful story for the LPGA Tour, one in which we are increasing our competitiveness in the sports entertainment marketplace and bringing more fans to the game of golf than ever before."
While attendance for the first major championship of the season, the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., remained steady at 60,000, Sorenstam's win in the desert and her quest to sweep all four majors peaked interest in the next major, the McDonald's LPGA Championship Presented by Coca-Cola. Attendance figures at Bulle Rock Golf Course in Havre de Grace, Md., which hosted the event for the first time, were up 30 percent over 2004, rising from 75,000 to 97,500.
And it was at the U.S. Women's Open conducted by the USGA last week where record crowds flocked to Cherry Hills Country Club in Cherry Hills Village, Colo., to witness Sorenstam's attempt to win a third major crown. Total attendance for the week, compared to 2004, increased 11 percent, from 118,000 last year to 131,298 this year. The 131,298 attendance total is believed to be a record for a women's professional golf tournament.
Combined, the first three major championships account for 288,798 in attendance, which is 14 percent higher than attendance figures for those same tournaments last season.
The Tour's major championship season kicked off at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, which aired early rounds on ESPN2 and weekend coverage on ABC. The Thursday and Friday rounds combined for a nearly 50-percent increase in viewership from last season, while the Saturday (.7) and Sunday (1.1) telecasts boasted a 15-percent increase in viewership from 2004.
The McDonald's LPGA Championship Presented by Coca-Cola aired rounds one and two on The Golf Channel, where viewership for those was up 169 percent from the previous year. That strong viewership trend continued into the weekend with nearly 30-percent increases from 2004 for CBS's Saturday (1.1) and Sunday (1.1) coverage.
The third leg of the LPGA Tour's Grand Slam was the U.S. Women's Open conducted by the USGA. ESPN2 carried four hours of competition on both Thursday and Friday, and viewership for those two early rounds combined was up 42 percent from 2004 and averaged a .5 rating. NBC continued coverage into the weekend posting ratings of 2.0 on Saturday and 2.9 on Sunday; Sunday's telecast rating nearly doubled over last year's number of 1.6. The U.S. Women's Open weekend telecast outpaced telecasts of both Wimbledon (1.9 on Saturday and 1.7 on Sunday) and the PGA Tour's Barclays Classic (1.2 on Saturday and 1.3 on Sunday).
LPGA.com, which has enjoyed steady growth in traffic in recent years, set record traffic numbers during the first three majors of the season when compared to the same time period in 2004.
During the first major championship of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, LPGA.com experienced more than 4 million page views, up 9 percent compared to 2004.
The excitement surrounding the McDonald's LPGA Championship Presented by Coca-Cola brought more than 5 million page views on LPGA.com, up 131 percent compared to 2004. Those numbers represent a 66-percent increase in visits and 76-percent increase in unique visitors. Traffic peaked during the final round with 1.2 million page views.
During last week's U.S. Women's Open, LPGA.com had more than 5.4 million page views, up 145 percent compared to the 2004 U.S. Women's Open. Traffic was up 112 percent in visits and up 89 percent in unique visitors. Traffic peaked during the final round on Sunday with 1.4 million page views.
Event 2004 2005 Increase
Kraft Nabisco Championship
Attendance 60,000 60,000 0%
ESPN2/ rounds 1-2 191,000* 280,000* 47%
ABC/rounds 3-4 867,000* 1,000,000* 15%
LPGA.com page views 3,989,051 4,365,323 9%
LPGA.com visits 402,424 437,868 9%
LPGA.com unique visitors 127,908 155,826 22%
McDonald's LPGA Championship
Attendance 75,000 97,500 30%
The Golf Channel/rounds 1-2 53,000* 143,000* 169%
CBS/ rounds 3-4 943,000* 1,221,000* 30%
LPGA.com page views 2,207,258 5,109,775 131%
LPGA.com visits 316,629 525,316 66%
LPGA.com unique visitors 110,129 216,709 97%
U.S. Women's Open
Attendance 118,000 131,298 11%
ESPN2/rounds 1-2 411,000* 580,000* 41%
NBC/rounds 3-4 1,696,000* 2,700,000* 59%
LPGA.com page views 2,218,668 5,443,770 145%
LPGA.com visits 435,087 923,659 112%
LPGA.com unique visitors 205,579 387,968 89%
*represents daily average viewership/data supplied by Nielsen
Laura Neal, LPGA