The Kingsmill Resort was built on beer. Anheuser-Busch purchased nearly 4,000 acres along the James River in 1969 primarily to house the brewery that continues to cranks out suds.
Adjacent to the brewery, close enough to smell the suds fermenting, Busch also constructed an amusement park and gated golf community. That community featured one, two and eventually three courses.
The LPGA Tour's Kingsmill Championship runs Thursday-Sunday following practice and pro-am rounds Monday-Wednesday.
"We couldn't be happier," said Wayne Nooe, Kingsmill's director of golf.
Nor could the LPGA.
The women's circuit landed at Kingsmill in 2003, a cheaper alternative to the PGA Tour men's event that Kingsmill staged for 22 years, from 1981-2002. The LPGA tournament produced marquee champions such as Se Ri Pak, Karrie Webb and Annika Sorenstam, Hall of Famers all, and elicited rave reviews from players.
But after the seventh edition in 2009, InBev, a Belgian firm that took over Anheuser-Busch, withdrew support for the event. The next year, Colorado-based Xanterra purchased Kingsmill from InBev.
"As we went through the (ownership transition) … we talked a lot about the importance of golf to Kingsmill, professional golf," Nooe said. "Our corporate office listened to what we had to say."
Coincidentally, the LPGA also was changing leadership. A former golf and hockey equipment executive, Mike Whan took over as the tour's commissioner in January 2010, determined to add tournaments to its rapidly depleting schedule.
Xanterra, Kingsmill and the LPGA were natural partners, and in January of this year they announced the tour's return to Williamsburg and Hampton Roads.
"I heard from definitely more than 10 players, I couldn't tell you the number … that Kingsmill was one of the best tournaments and certainly one of the best golf courses we played on the LPGA," Whan said. "I knew it would create exactly what it did create, which is a standing ovation among the players."
"All the girls love this golf course," said Brittany Lang, a suburban Richmond native who earned her first LPGA victory in June.
"My favorite stop on tour, with an amazing golf course and facility," said six-year LPGA veteran Kristy McPherson. "We like adding all events, but getting Kingsmill back on the schedule is awesome."
The tournament is contracted for two years, with the 2013 event set for May. That was the LPGA's traditional month in Hampton Roads, first on Southside (Portsmouth, Suffolk and Chesapeake) during the 1980s and early '90s, and later in Williamsburg.
This week's date conflicts with not only high school and college football, but also NASCAR races in Richmond.
"If we could have done May in 2012 we would have," said Whan, who will play in Wednesday's pro-am. "Given when we got everything wrapped up, it would have been rushed. But we all agreed from the beginning that the May slot is where Kingsmill belongs and where it'll be long-term."
To help sustain the tournament, Xanterra and the LPGA are searching for a title sponsor that could increase the purse — this year's is $1.3 million, $380,000 below the tour's average. The purse in 2009 was $2.2 million, among the tour's largest.
"We both talked about a two-year plan to find the right (sponsor) that can keep us there two decades," Whan said. "We did the deal with Xanterra because they get golf. They wanted to make Kingsmill a regular stop on the LPGA. The good news is the LPGA and Xanterra came together to do this, and if in time we transfer it to somebody else, that's only better."
Return to Kingsmill part of LPGA's revival
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