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Golf: ANA onboard as LPGA’s official airline, sponsor of first major

Current champion Lexi Thompson (far right) and five former winners of the LPGA’s first major don a new-look Champion’s Robe in honour of the newly named ANA Inspiration, title sponsored by the Tour’s new official airline. Pictured with Thompson are Karrie Webb (2000, 2006), Morgan Pressel (2007), Brittany Lincicome (2009), Yani Tseng (2010) and Yoo Sun-young (2012).

Current champion Lexi Thompson (second right) and five other winners of the LPGA’s first major don a new-look Champion’s Robe in honour of the newly named ANA Inspiration, sponsored by the Tour’s new official airline. Karrie Webb (2000, 2006), Morgan Pressel (2007), Brittany Lincicome (2009), Yani Tseng (2010) and Yoo Sun-young (2012) also pictured.

November 19, 2014: All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s leading airline, has come onboard as the LPGA’s Official Airline and title sponsor of the season’s first major.

 

Succeeding the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the newly named ANA Inspiration will be held from March 30-April 5, 2015, at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, home of the event since 1972. The winner traditionally jumps into Poppie’s Pond by the 18th green before donning the ‘Champion’s Robe’.

 

Reigning champion Lexi Thompson and five former champions of the event, which became a major in 1983, were in attendance at the press conference announcing the LPGA’s latest sponsorship. Following a long-term agreement between the LPGA, IMG and ANA, the purse for the tournament will increase to US$2.5 million in 2015 and incrementally to US$3 million by 2018.

 

ANA, which operates 72 international routes and 13 daily flights between North America and Japan, will unveil activities surrounding the major’s theme of inspiration leading up to the 2015 tournament.

 

Yuji Hirako, ANA’s Senior Vice President of the Americas, said: “This is a landmark occasion for All Nippon Airways and demonstrates our commitment to explore new horizons and strengthen our longstanding connection between key markets of Japan and North America.

 

“In partnering with the LPGA and one of the most important major championships in all of golf, we are embarking on a new journey that has the potential to inspire golfers worldwide. Together, ANA and the LPGA can see that leaderboards are becoming truly global, which creates exciting new opportunities that both organisations are ready to seize.”

 

Although the event takes on a new name, the tournament’s traditions will remain as players continue to compete for the Dinah Shore Trophy on the Dinah Shore Championship course at Mission Hills.

 

Michael Whan, Commissioner of the LPGA, said: “We are excited to welcome ANA to the LPGA family and grateful for their vision. This partnership not only elevates one of the game’s greatest championships but also ensures that a major LPGA tradition will continue to grow and reach new heights. Because of ANA, future generations of golfers all over the world can dream of competing at this spectacular venue with hopes of a leap into the same pond that has welcomed some of the greatest players in history.”

 

In July, the LPGA and IMG entered into a joint venture to seek sponsorship for the tournament after Kraft Nabisco announced its departure following 33 years as title partner. IMG began operating the tournament in 2012 and will continue to do so moving forward.

 

Kevin Hopkins, IMG’s Executive Director of the ANA Inspiration, said: “Today’s announcement signals a new era for one of the LPGA’s most iconic tournaments. At IMG, we are proud to support the LPGA in Asia, Europe and the US, and we look forward to delivering golf’s first major with our partner, ANA.”

 

In addition to operating the ANA Inspiration, IMG also produces the Ricoh Women’s British Open, the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic and seven LPGA tournaments in Asia.

 

Source: LPGA (www.lpga.com); Editing by SportAsia

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