After more than three months off, the LPGA Tour is planning to restart its season with a bang. The Tour announced the dates for its first pair of events Tuesday, just two days after the PGA Tour completed the first event of its resumed season in Fort Worth, Texas.
According to a release from the Tour, the LPGA will return in late July with back-to-back events in northwestern Ohio. Most notably, the Tour announced the creation of the LPGA Drive On Championship, a three-day event beginning on July 31. The Drive On Championship — a new, unsponsored event — is designed to celebrate the official return of the Tour at the site of the 2021 Solheim Cup, the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.
The three-day, 144-player event will feature a $1 million purse and will be broadcast on Golf Channel. LPGA officials worked closely with players to create the Drive On Championship with the hope of providing an additional playing opportunity to membership in the shortened season.
“Thanks in part to the generosity of our partners who could not reschedule their events in 2020, we are adding a valuable additional playing opportunity for our LPGA Tour members,” said LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan. “We are so appreciative of our longtime partners, Marathon and Dana, as well as the memberships at Highland Meadows and Inverness, for adjusting their schedules and helping us create a valuable two-week stretch in the Toledo area as we work to safely return to competition.
While no fans will be permitted at the Inverness Club for the opening event, the LPGA Tour won’t wait nearly as long as the men’s game to welcome back spectators. The Marathon LPGA Classic at Highland Meadows Golf Club will open its gates for fans the week after the Drive On Championship. The Marathon, which was originally scheduled for July 23-26, agreed to shift its tournament dates to August 6-9 in order to accommodate the Drive On Championship.
Those who wish to attend the Marathon will be required to follow safety protocols implemented for the PGA Tour’s fan return at the Memorial Tournament in mid-July. Among those protocols, those in attendance will be required to wear masks and take regular temperature readings, while officials will limit capacity in certain viewing areas to ensure spectators maintain adequate distance.
Whan, who has been a vocal leader in golf’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, expressed optimism that the Drive On Championship would serve as a valuable lead-in for the fan return.
“This new event will allow us to test our COVID-19 protocols before we get to welcome back our fans at the Marathon LPGA Classic,” he said.
With the updated schedule, the LPGA Tour fills the gap created by the cancellation of the women’s game’s first major, the Evian Championship, due to safety concerns.