LPGA returns to Los Angeles with Korean backing

The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) has announced it will return to Los Angeles for the first time in over a decade, with Korean companies Hugel and JTBC title sponsoring a new tournament at Wilshire Country Club.

The LPGA had said that a Los Angeles tournament was on the cards when it revealed its 2018 calendar last month, but has now agreed a three-year deal with Eiger Marketing Group (EMG), a global marketing and event management agency, which will own and operate the Hugel-JTBC Open.

The new event will debut the week of April 16-22 at Wilshire Country Club, which is located in downtown Los Angeles in the heart of Hollywood. The tournament will feature 144 of the world’s best female professionals competing over four rounds for a share of the $1.5m (€1.25m) purse. 

The announcement marks the LPGA’s first return to Los Angeles since the demise of the Office Depot Championship, which was held at various courses from 2001 to 2005. Wilshire hosted the 2001 event that was won by Annika Sorenstam. The Hugel-JTBC Open will be the third of the four tournaments held in California in 2018, joining the ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage, the Kia Classic in Carlsbad and a tournament in San Francisco.

Hugel produces beauty products, including the botulinum toxin product commonly known as botox. Founded in 2001, it exports botulinum toxin product Botulax to 24 countries including Japan, Thailand and Vietnam and plans to enter the US market in the future.

JTBC, a Korean broadcasting company that is part of the JoongAng Group, is also the LPGA’s Korean television rights holder and previously sponsored multiple events in Portland, Virginia and Arizona.

“We’re very excited to take the LPGA back to Los Angeles and historic Wilshire Country Club, adding to the Tour’s already prominent presence in Southern California,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said. “We want to thank our good friends at Hugel, JTBC and Eiger Marketing Group for providing us the opportunity to bring the stars of golf’s global tour to the heart of Hollywood and put on a show in one of the largest broadcast markets in the world.”

South Korea is a dominant force in women’s golf and has four players inside the top 10 of the world rankings, including world No.2 Sung Hyun Park (pictured). US newspaper the Press-Telegram said the LPGA had been keen to stage a tournament in Los Angeles with the city having the largest Korean-American population of any city proper in America at more than 100,000. Wilshire is also not far from L.A.’s Koreatown area.

The newspaper also noted the LPGA’s previously rocky relationship with the city, with previous hosts having failed to hold on to an event for more than three years in a row. The Trump National Golf Course in Rancho Palos Verdes hosted the last LPGA tournament in Southern California 13 years ago. However, the event was blighted by several days of early morning fog that forced a Monday finish and it failed to return after one year on the calendar.