At least the burial was proper.
Anheuser-Busch InBev could have terminated the LPGA Tour's seven-year run at Kingsmill with a faceless press release — in Dutch even — or an awkward teleconference.
The Michelob Ultra Open deserved nothing less.
From its 2003 inception to its inevitable demise, the event showcased five-star hospitality, a first-rate golf course and Hall of Fame champions.
"I think we all should be very proud of what we accomplished," tournament director Wayne Nooe said, citing the Kingsmill staff and a volunteer armada of more than 1,500.
But during times of economic peril and corporate takeovers, pride and quality don't count for much. So when the markets cratered and Belgium-based InBev commandeered Anheuser-Busch, 2009 figured to be the LPGA's farewell at Kingsmill.
A-B owns Kingsmill (not for long?) and has staged a professional tournament there since 1981. The PGA Tour competed on Pete Dye's River Course for 22 years to decidedly mixed reviews — inconvenient dates and pedestrian fields tarnished the event — the LPGA for seven to raves.
Dan McHugh, a brewery vice president, offered "brand sharing" and other marketing mumbo-jumbo as reasons for discontinuing the tournament, and we sports scribes are in no position to tell a multibillion-dollar enterprise how to spend its euros.
What we can tell you is that any golf competition absent Tiger Woods is a shaky proposition these days, and that the LPGA is in an especially perilous spot. Skittish about quarterly earnings, tournament sponsors are bailing in alarming numbers at the very time the tour is enduring a leadership vacuum.
First came Annika Sorenstam's retirement, two days after her dominant 2008 victory at Kingsmill. She was the LPGA's Tiger, its most visible and accomplished athlete.
Then came a July player mutiny that ousted Carolyn Bivens, the tour's first female commissioner. Failing to massage/retain sponsors caused her unraveling.
McHugh and LPGA vice president Eric Albrecht said the tour's transitions did not impair the Michelob's chances of survival, but it's obvious: No Annika plus no commish spells trouble.
To A-B's credit, it didn't continue the tournament on the cheap with a smaller purse or scaled-back amenities. The tour might have welcomed such a stopgap, but it would have run counter to the event's core mission.
"If we were going to do it," McHugh said, "we were going to do it at the highest level. … We will use this as a template" for other endeavors.
The level was so high, according to Albrecht, that most, if not all, of the LPGA's tournament directors visited Kingsmill to observe Nooe and his staff.
Granted, A-B was well-positioned to run a superior tournament. Not many other title sponsors own on-site housing, dining and spa, and nearby amusement and water parks.
"This was an event players enjoyed bringing their families to," Albrecht said.
And let's not forget the unlimited supply of barley and hops — caddies were most appreciative after a long day's slog.
But the Mich's primary asset was people. Folks at every turn went above and beyond to accommodate players, fans and even the mongrels of the fourth estate — oh, those press room brownies.
"I think we've proven we can put on a first-class event," Nooe said. "We feel very strongly that hosting … has been good for us."
It was certainly good for anyone who appreciated quality golf. Each of the six women who won at Kingsmill — Crisite Kerr prevailed twice — boasts a major championship on her resume, and three are enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame: Se Ri Pak, Karrie Webb and Sorenstam.
Webb went wire-to-wire in 2006 to win by seven shots; Suzann Pettersen defeated Jee Young Lee in a playoff in '07; Sorenstam the next year shot a crazy-low 19-under for her 72nd career victory.
As she exited the interview room following her victory this year, Kerr knew the tournament was in danger.
"I'll see you next year," she said. "I'm planning on it. I'll bring a sponsor myself if I have to."
Alas, the best laid plans often go awry.
"After 29 years," Nooe said, "it's hard to say goodbye."
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime.
'It's hard to say goodbye' to Kingsmill
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