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Original Issue

The Pepper Mill

IN A PART of the world known for amazing waves, we certainly rode some big ones on the North Shore of Oahu at the LPGA's 2009 season opener. When I arrived on Feb. 10, I was greeted by the unofficial news that the LPGA tour, already four events lighter on its schedule than a year ago, was ending its 15-year relationship with SBS, the title sponsor of last week's event and the exclusive holder of the tour's Korean broadcast rights. Two days later, in Los Angeles, it was announced that JBC had come up with a sweet little package to become the tour's new Korean broadcaster. That's great news at a much-needed time, but at what cost? SBS president and CEO Sang Y. Chun said that although he was not upset at being outbid by the smaller JBC, he was steamed about the way he was treated by the LPGA, to the extent that he said SBS would "absolutely not" sponsor the event at Turtle Bay after 2009. For me this is another example of what's wrong at the LPGA. Even when they do something good, like securing a more lucrative TV deal, they go about it in the wrong way. The tour can't continue to carelessly cast aside long-time supporters, business partners and sponsors. It's a mistake from a business standpoint and a matter of common courtesy.

THE BIGGER news was the LPGA's announcement of a 10-year partnership with Golf Channel, making the cable network the exclusive U.S. home of the tour and now, really, for all of golf, including the PGA, Champions, Nationwide, European and LPGA tours. Exclusive coverage of the Solheim Cup through 2019 and at least one of the LPGA majors was also part of the deal, for which the LPGA was paid a rights fee. My first thought was, When will Golf Channel find time to air all this golf? Page Thompson (above), president of the network, says every event will be accommodated either live or on tape, with international events, produced by outside companies, tape delayed. While it is a huge advantage for the LPGA to have a consistent home and consistent look, I hope its tournaments will not be buried in off-peak scheduling. Even more, I hope the LPGA will carefully nurture these new partnerships. They aren't just business.

Dottie Pepper, a 17-year LPGA veteran and an analyst for NBC and Golf Channel, welcomes letters at