Future of LPGA stop in Cambridge uncertain as Manulife's sponsorship run ends
Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, June 11, 2017 2:11PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 12, 2017 6:01AM EDT
CAMBRIDGE, Ont. -- The LPGA Tour says it would like to return, but the future of the Manulife LPGA Classic remains uncertain as the title sponsor will not be back for the 2018 season.
Manulife, an international financial services group with headquarters in Toronto, has sponsored the tournament since its inaugural edition in 2012.
"The 2017 Manulife LPGA Classic will be Manulife's final tournament as title sponsor," Manulife Canada president and CEO Marianne Harrison said in a statement. "Manulife is proud to have brought this world-class professional sporting event to the Waterloo Region for the past six years.
"The tournament has been a great opportunity for Manulife and one that lasted longer than we originally expected with our two extensions to the contract in 2014 and then again in 2016."
Waterloo's Grey Silo Golf Course was host for the tournament's first three years. The event moved in 2015 to Whistle Bear Golf Club in nearby Cambridge, about an hour's drive west of Toronto.
The LPGA Tour made reference to the sponsor situation in the media notes package for this year's tournament.
"While this is the final year of the Manulife LPGA Classic, all of us at the LPGA are incredibly grateful for the partnership we enjoyed with Manulife and the Kitchener-Waterloo area. We will certainly do our best to bring an LPGA tournament back to this area and these tremendous golf fans."
The calendar for the 2018 season will likely be announced in November. If a new sponsor comes on board, it's also possible it may choose to start in 2019.
Becky Newell, the LPGA's director of tournament business affairs, said the sponsor search is underway.
"Is it going to happen? I can't say for sure," Newell said. "But I definitely think it's a strong market that we can come back to with the right partner."
The only other LPGA Tour stop in Canada is the Aug. 24-27 CP Women's Open. On the men's side, the July 27-30 RBC Canadian Open is the lone PGA Tour event in this country.
"I hope maybe we can find a different sponsor because it's great for the area," said Alena Sharp of nearby Hamilton, who started Sunday's final round in a tie for fourth place. "I know it does a lot for the community in bringing in tourism. The people here are great to us as players, volunteers and fans.
"So let's keep our fingers crossed and hopefully we'll be back next year."
The tournament week has fluctuated during the six-year run. The 2016 event was held in early September.
"It definitely has been embraced by the community," Newell said. "That's why I feel like being able to find a replacement (sponsor) will be very very good for this community and they'll just turn around and embrace it."
Organizers said a tournament record 68,000 spectators took in last year's competition. Attendance numbers for the 2017 event were not immediately available.
"We very proud of our association with this world-class professional sporting event and the benefits it brought to female golf, our Kitchener-Waterloo community and our charity partner, St. Mary's General Hospital Foundation," Harrison said.
"Over the past six years, we've raised more than $1.6 million for St. Mary's through the tournament and will continue to support the hospital foundation through other corporate giving programs."