Sports and entertainment events often appear and disappear from the greater Atlantic City area.
But the ShopRite LPGA Classic has become a fixture, and the event isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
The Eiger Marketing Group will announce an agreement with the LPGA and ShopRite’s parent company, Wakefern Food Corp., on Wednesday to continue the tournament until 2023.
This year’s $1.5 million Classic will be held Friday through Saturday on the Bay Course at Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club in Galloway Township.
“The future of the LPGA and the ShopRite LPGA Classic in Atlantic City has never looked brighter,” said Tim Erensen, the Classic executive director and Eiger managing partner.
The Eiger Marketing Group runs the Classic. The key deal is with ShopRite. No golf tournament can exist without a title sponsor.
“This gives us the ability to continue to invest in the product,” Erensen said. “We don’t have to worry who our title sponsor is going to be year after year. ShopRite has given us the ability to really focus on the quality of the event. We could not find a better partner than Wakefern.”
Erensen said he expects the Classic to soon reach an agreement with Stockton and Seaview officials to continue to hold the event at the resort.
“We don’t plan on going anywhere else,” Erensen said. “We love it (at Seaview).”
As a result of the new deal, the Classic’s purse will be raised to $1.75 million beginning next year.
“It’s a women’s sporting event,” said Karen Gozzi, vice president of social media, digital advertising and content creation for Wakefern. “Our core demographic are women. It seems to be a natural fit for us. First and foremost, it’s served as a platform for charitable giving for us. It rings every bell for us.”
The Classic has raised more than $32 million for charities since ShopRite became the sponsor in 1992. On Friday, ShopRite will announce another $1.5 million charity donation.
Much of the money the tournament raises is donated to local charities such as the Girl Scouts of Central & Southern New Jersey as well as the Community FoodBank of New Jersey.
“It’s invaluable to us,” said Donna Evans, chief development officer for the Girls Scouts of Central & Southern New Jersey. “Because of their support we’re pretty confident we’ll continue to have girls in the Jersey Shore area for many years to come.”
The Classic began in 1986 and has been held every year except for a three-year gap from 2007-09 because of a dispute over tournament dates with the LPGA. Erensen and his organization revived the Classic in 2010.
Few local events in sports or entertainment bring more publicity to the greater Atlantic City area. Shots of the Atlantic City Boardwalk and beaches are often featured on the Golf Channel’s national television coverage.
The Classic’s two-day pro-am is the largest of any LPGA, PGA or Champions tour event, with 1,000 golfers playing on four courses — the Bay and Pines at Seaview, Galloway National and Atlantic City Country Club in Northfield.
The Classic struggled its first couple of years. Margate residents Ruth and Larry Harrison almost single-handedly kept the tournament alive. ShopRite’s sponsorship solidified the event’s future.
The Classic has survived when the Atlantic City Surf baseball team and the Boardwalk Bullies hockey team couldn’t. Big-time boxing is almost nonexistent in Atlantic City. A professional volleyball tournament in Atlantic City disappeared after two years.
“This is the right type of market for the LPGA,” Erensen said. “When we brought the event back it was clear that not only did ShopRite and Atlantic City miss the LPGA but the LPGA missed Atlantic City.”
The Classic also has outlasted many LPGA events. Long-time LPGA events such as the Rochester International in New York no longer exist. Other events, such as the McDonald’s LPGA Championship in Wilmington, Delaware, have moved to a different location with a different title sponsor.
The Classic remains and has become an integral part of the South Jersey sports scene.
LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said LPGA pros play with the same pro-am partners and live with the same host families year after year at the Classic. He joked that ShopRite volunteers can tell him more about the LPGA than he knows.
“The ShopRite LPGA Classic views Atlantic City as a home as opposed to a tournament site,” Whan said. “It’s not a corporation that circled a city on a map and said, ‘Why don’t we play there.’ You hear a welcome home comment a lot from fans (at the Classic). It’s a real hometown event as opposed to just a city that we decided to play in.”