The future of the ShopRite LPGA Classic got even more secure Thursday.
The professional golf tournament announced deals with ShopRite, the LPGA and Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club that guarantee the event will exist through at least 2016.
The Classic is one of the highlights of the South Jersey sports scene. The event had been existing on a series of one-year deals since it returned in 2010 after a three-year hiatus. The $1.5 million tournament will be held May 30 through June 1 on the Bay Course at Seaview in Galloway Township. LPGA Hall of Famer Karrie Webb is the defending champion.
The tournament’s deal with ShopRite is the most important because the company’s money funds the event.
“This deal gives us a lot of comfort and flexibility to know that (ShopRite) is on board,” Classic Executive Director Tim Erensen said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon. “They remain as committed to the event as ever. We can focus on growing the event and growing our partnership instead of worrying every year about what’s going to happen with the event.”
The Classic signed a five-year deal that begins this year with ShopRite, the LPGA and Seaview. Only three of those years are guaranteed. The parties can opt out in 2017 and 2018. That decision must be made 45 days after the end of the 2015 tournament, Erensen said.
“If (ShopRite) didn’t exercise the option, we would still have one more year with them and the event,” Erensen said. “We would have one event to showcase ourselves to potential new title sponsors.”
But there is no reason to think the tournament’s future isn’t anything but positive. The Classic began in 1986. ShopRite became the title sponsor in 1992. The tournament has raised more than $27 million for charities since ShopRite and its parent company, Wakefern, became a sponsor. In 2013, the event raised nearly $1.3 million for local charities, aiding hospitals, educational institutions and the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, Southern Branch, in Egg Harbor Township.
“Together, ShopRite and the LPGA have given millions of dollars to help those in need, and I can’t think of a better reason to continue this tradition,” Joseph Colalillo, chairman and CEO of Wakefern, said in a statement Thursday.
Stockton released a study last fall that said the tournament led to $13.6 million in direct spending for regional businesses last year. The study said the tournament drew an estimated 62,555 people, slightly more than 90 percent of whom were not from Atlantic County.
Erensen said 99 percent of last year’s tournament sponsors have renewed for this year. This year’s two-day pro-am, which will be held May 28 and 29, is almost sold out. The pro-am is one of the largest of any professional golf event, including men, with more than 1,250 rounds being played on the Bay and Pines courses at Seaview, as well as the Atlantic City Country Club in Northfield and Galloway National Golf Club. The typical LPGA pro-am lasts one day and features 260 to 270 rounds.
The Classic ended briefly from 2007-09 because former tournament organizers had a dispute over dates with the LPGA. Erensen revived the tournament in 2010.
“This new deal gives us security,” Erensen said. “It helps us with our staff. It helps us with our capital investments. If we want to make capital improvements to the golf course or the way we run the event, we can spread those over a couple of years. It’s a great position for us and everybody involved in the event.”
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