Until the early 1990s, Daytona Beach was primarily known around the world for its massive motor racing footprint – thanks to the presence of Daytona International Speedway and NASCAR’s headquarters – and its white sandy beaches that provided a perfect setting for college students to gather for spring break.
That all changed, however, when the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) relocated from Sugar Land, Texas, in 1989 and began the move to Daytona Beach as part of a premier residential community and home of two signature golf courses created by Consolidated-Tomoka Land Company in cooperation with the City of Daytona Beach, the State of Florida and the LPGA. After spending several years in temporary headquarters located west of Interstate 95, the LPGA finally settled into its new international home base at 100 International Golf Drive in April 1996.
The arrival in Daytona Beach of one of the longest-running women’s professional sports associations in the world provided the local economy with a significant boost (the LPGA today has 130 full-time employees) while it also raised the global profile of the area considerably. Yes, Daytona Beach is still world-renowned as a mecca for motorsports and beach lovers but the presence of the LPGA here for close to three decades has made the area internationally famous for its influential links to the game of golf.
Founded in 1950 by 13 remarkable women, the LPGA celebrates a diverse and storied membership with more than 2,300 members representing more than 30 countries. At the elite level, LPGA Tour professionals compete across the globe and in 2019 the Tour will visit 15 states in the U.S. and a total of 12 countries. Additionally, the LPGA Tour and the Symetra Tour (the official development and qualifying tour of the LPGA) will this year feature players from more than 50 nations vying to be the very best that they can be.
At the summit of the game, LPGA Tour players have come from all sorts of backgrounds. Among those who have ascended to the top of the Rolex Women’s Golf rankings over the past 13 years are Annika Sorenstam (Sweden), Lorena Ochoa (Mexico), Jiyai Shin (Republic of Korea), Ai Miyazato (Japan), Cristie Kerr (United States), Yani Tseng (Taiwan), Lydia Ko (New Zealand), Ariya Jutanugarn (Thailand) and Shanshan Feng (China) – a veritable United Nations ‘Who’s Who’.
“We showcase the very best of women’s golf and we have players from all over the world who have taken their whole lives to make it to this level,” said LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan. “What they really want is to play in a forum where the very best get to play each other week-in and week-out. And they’ve all got individual stories, whether they grew up in South America, North America, Asia, Europe – just to get here is an unbelievable venture.”
“Last year we had 29 different countries represented by 340 players trying to make it to the LPGA. What’s happening in women’s golf right now is unbelievably exciting because it’s borderless. It doesn’t matter where you grew up. You can have this dream, and there’s probably already somebody who has shown that you can make it out here. If you come out and watch an LPGA Tour event, you’ll see the best female athletes from all over the world. You’ll see flags from all over the world.”
Symetra Tour players will be competing this year for total prize money of $4 million spread across 24 tournaments. On the elite LPGA Tour, more than $68 million in total prize money will be up for grabs from 32 official events, an increase of $5 million over 2016.
Under the umbrella of the LPGA Foundation, the LPGA is also making a significant impact on growing the game. LPGA-USGA Girls Golf has increased its reach from 4,500 girls in 2010 to 80,000 girls last year, and there are now 500 Girls Golf sites scattered across the world. The LPGA has expanded its women’s program offerings with the launch of the LPGA Women’s Network, the industry-wide #inviteHER marketing campaign and the acquisition and rebrand of LPGA Amateur Golf Association. Additionally, the LPGA Leadership Academy inspires young women to embrace leadership, using golf as a vehicle to further develop confidence, communication and leadership skills.
While the LPGA’s global influence is one of the broadest in any sport, its local impact in Florida is also impressive. The LPGA finally decided on making Daytona Beach its new home, post-Texas, after considering more than 100 site proposals. The main reasons? The lure of a public-private partnership between the LPGA, the City of Daytona Beach and Consolidated-Tomoka Land Company, plus support from the State of Florida, provided the unique opportunity to make a significant economic impact and raise the overall profile of the LPGA and the local community through the development of a new LPGA International golf facility and the construction of a new LPGA headquarters to support its growing organization.
The LPGA, simply by establishing its global operations in Daytona Beach, has become one of the biggest drivers of the local economy and a source of diverse professional talent for the area. With over 100 team members housed at its Daytona Beach headquarters, the impact on the community also reaches into civic and philanthropic engagement. The LPGA prides itself on its five ‘Family Values’: For Women of Golf, Play it Forward, An Open Book, Act Like a Founder and Role Reversal. These values have led to the LPGA regularly supporting a variety of important initiatives and causes in Volusia County with many LPGA team members donating their time, expertise and resources to sit on local civic and charitable boards and support community activities. Among those organizations which have benefited from the LPGA’s presence in the area are United Way, Easterseals Florida, Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Daytona, FUTURES Foundation for Volusia County Schools, Volusia Young Professionals Group, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Volusia County, The Conklin Center for the Blind and Halifax Humane Society.
“The LPGA is very proud of our home in Daytona Beach and our contributions to the growth and development of Volusia County,” said Kathy Milthorpe, LPGA Chief Financial Officer and former Chairman of the Daytona Regional Chamber. “Since relocating to the area, our business has grown from primarily a U.S.-based golf tour to a global operation that is dedicated to providing women with the opportunity to pursue their dreams in the game of golf at both the professional and amateur levels. And while expanding the game of golf for women is our primary focus, we are equally committed to supporting Volusia County and the development of a prosperous and vibrant community.”