The ShopRite LPGA Classic has been rescheduled again because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tournament now hopes to be played Oct. 2-4 on the Bay Course at Seaview Hotel and Golf Club in Galloway Township, the LPGA announced Wednesday. The Classic was scheduled to be played July 29-31.
“This buys us another two months for the world to get closer to whatever the new normal is going to be,” said Tim Erensen, managing partner of Eiger Marketing Group, which owns and operates the Classic.
Erensen said the Classic hopes to have fans attend and also hold its pro-am events.
“Our plan all along is we want to have the event as close to normal as possible,” he said. “By extending (to October) it gives us a greater chance to achieve that goal.”
The 54-hole Classic also received another purse boost and now boasts a tournament-record $2 million in prize money. The purse was increased because sponsors of LPGA events that were canceled by the pandemic have offered some of their prize funds to increase purses for remaining events.
The move to October also puts the Classic in a more advantageous spot on the LPGA schedule as the tournament will now be played the week before one of the LPGA’s five major championships. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship will be held at Aronimick Golf Course in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, Oct. 8-11.
“Given the climate of what travel’s going to be like, for people to come to the Philly area for two straight weeks from a player perspective, it’s a pretty easy decision,” Erensen said. “If I can not get on an airplane for two weeks and play for $2 million at ShopRite and for $4 million and a major, that’s a pretty good opportunity.”
This is the second time the Classic has been rescheduled. It was originally supposed to be played May 29-31 before being moved to July last month.
The LPGA had planned to play the Meijer Classic in Michigan from Oct. 1-4, but that event was canceled Wednesday, opening its dates for the Classic. Seaview’s Bay Course should be in better playing condition in October than it would be in July.
“It was a no-brainer for us to move,” Erensen said. “It gets us out of the heat of the summer.”
The Classic is an integral part of the South Jersey sports scene, having raised more than $35 million for charity since ShopRite became the presenting sponsor in 1992.
The Classic began in 1986 and has been held every year since except for a three-year gap from 2007 through 2009 because of a dispute over tournament dates with the LPGA. 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 more than 1,000 golfers playing on four courses — the Bay and Pines at Seaview, Galloway National and Atlantic City Country Club in Northfield.
“The flexibility and understanding from both Meijer and the leadership at ShopRite speak volumes to their dedication to our LPGA athletes and their charitable efforts,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement Wednesday. “We look forward to visiting the Jersey Shore in October and continuing an incredible tradition of great championships and giving back to the local community.”
With the move to October, the Classic also will benefit from seeing how other professional sports leagues and entertainment venues manage the return from the pandemic.
“We are going to do a lot of learning from other events,” Erensen said. “The PGA Tour is starting in three weeks. What’s the NFL doing (in the fall)? What did hockey do? What did basketball do? What happened with the beaches on the Jersey Shore? What happened with the (Atlantic City) casinos? There’s so many things we don’t know today that we’re going to know in another four to six to eight weeks.”