Oakmont Decision to Abandon LPGA Tourney Stings Business Boosters

July 23, 1987|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

Glendale officials said a campaign to entice large corporations to the city was dealt a setback last week when the exclusive Oakmont Country Club narrowly voted not to allow the annual Ladies' Professional Golf Assn. tournament to return there next year.

Business leaders and city officials said they had regarded the tournament, held for three years at Oakmont, as the key to promoting Glendale in national newspaper and television coverage.

In a private July 15 meeting, Oakmont members reportedly voted 117-113 to oust the LPGA event. Some members argued that the tournament and spectators intruded on their schedules and privacy.

The action shocked city officials and business leaders, who said they had expected the proposed 1988 tournament to be routinely approved.

Sponsor Surprised

"I was very surprised," said Raymond D. Edwards, chairman of Glendale Federal--the tournament's sponsor--and the Glendale Development Council, a private group of business and civic leaders devoted to promoting the city.

The golf tournament, held the third week in March, drew about 140 professional golfers and about 35,000 spectators this year. Even though the event was plagued by rain in all three years, it received national television coverage and widespread publicity in newspaper sports columns.

The Glendale Redevelopment Agency spent almost $40,000 on the tournament this year. The funds were used to stage a one-day "corporate pro-am" tournament, in which officials of major companies played a round of golf with professionals and Glendale executives.

Tournament Lured Tenants

The program featured a slide show extolling the virtues of Glendale. Susan Shick, deputy redevelopment director, said the event this year was instrumental in convincing "three or four major new tenants to move to Glendale as a result."

"The tournament was the single biggest thing that happened in Glendale," said Dave West, an executive vice president of Glendale Federal.

Oakmont was considered to be one of the most challenging courses on the LPGA tour, which included 36 tournaments last year. When contacted in New York on Tuesday, Don Sterling, LPGA marketing director, said he was disappointed about the Oakmont vote. But he said he hopes another course in the Los Angeles area will be found for next year's tournament.

$250,000 Prize Money Withdrawn

However, Edwards, an Oakmont member, said that the Glendale-based savings and loan is withdrawing its sponsorship, which included $250,000 in prize money. "There is no point in our being involved any further," he said. "It was a Glendale tournament; good for the community, good for the club and good for ourselves. Our sponsoring a tournament somewhere else just wouldn't be the same."

Oakmont officials said 450 members were eligible to vote in the election. While several of the votes cast are in dispute, no new election is expected to be called. "The tournament is a dead issue," Steve Hockett, Oakmont's general manager, said.

Carl W. Raggio, chairman of the Glendale Redevelopment Agency, said loss of the tournament "is extremely disappointing." He said the program "was just beginning to get the kind of publicity the city needs."

Raggio and other leaders said they are considering other promotional events to generate interest in Glendale. Options include staging free major pop music concerts or marathon bicycle races.

Noel Veden, executive director of the private Development Council, said the loss of the professional golf tournament "is not going to stop us or greatly alter what we are doing to promote Glendale. I don't think that tenants who are considering moving here are going to base their decision on whether we do or do not have the LPGA."

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