Guess who can't wait for the tour's September return to the Williamsburg resort after a two-year absence?
Indeed, Kingsmill engendered loyalty from legions of players, regardless of how they fared. The hospitality, location, amenities and golf course were that good.
The world's 10th-ranked player, Lincicome is a five-time winner with a major championship, the 2009 Kraft Nabisco, on her resume, and she played every year at Kingsmill upon joining the tour in 2005. LPGA officials anticipate that she'll be joined by most, if not all, the game's elite Sept. 6-9 on Pete Dye's River Course.
Player reaction has been "through the roof," said Jon Podany, the tour's chief marketing officer. "I was in our board meeting in November when we first talked about the possibility. … I can tell you the immediate reaction was, eyes lit up. I'm not sure there's any other venue that would generate (that level of enthusiasm)."
Podany is part of a new LPGA leadership team assembled by commissioner Michael Whan, who succeeded the deposed Carolyn Bivens in late 2009. Bivens' tenure was marked by rampant sponsor defections that ravaged the tour's schedule, especially in the United States.
Among the biggest casualties was the Kingsmill event, sponsored by Anheuser-Busch, which then owned the resort and which, prior to the LPGA tournament, hosted a PGA Tour event in Williamsburg for 22 years. But the takeover of A-B by Belgium-based InBev coupled with the LPGA's turmoil doomed the Kingsmill tournament after its 2009 edition.
Colorado-based Xanterra Parks & Resorts purchased Kingsmill in 2010, and soon thereafter discussions began about bringing the LPGA back to Hampton Roads — the region's Southside staged 14 LPGA tournaments from 1979-92.
"We outreached to all past venues and sponsors," Podany said. "We aggressively pursued Kingsmill."
Xanterra officials responded because "they knew how important that event was to not only Kingsmill but also the entire Williamsburg community," said Wayne Nooe, Kingsmill's director of golf and the tournament's lead organizer.
On less than eight months notice, Nooe and his crew must ready the course and reassemble the more than 1,500 volunteers who made the week hum. In short, he's like Jake and Elwood Blues getting the band back together — without the prison time.
"The biggest challenge is operational," Nooe said. "Ticket sales, sponsorships, website: We're going to have to fast-track a lot of that."
The Kingsmill Championship is contracted for two years — the tournament is scheduled for May 2-5 in 2013 — and will offer a $1.3 million purse, well shy of the $2.2 million that made its previous incarnation among the tour's richest.
Podany said officials are searching for a title sponsor that could increase the purse, "but that's not a critical element. … We have the funding we need and the commitment we need."
September's Kingsmill Championship is scheduled the week prior to the Women's British Open, a proximity familiar to those who recall the PGA Tour events here. Often contested the week before the British Open, Kingsmill's PGA stop was saddled with diluted fields because many top players jetted to Europe early to get acclimated to the time change and links golf.
Expect no such issues with the LPGA. With only 27 tournaments, 15 in the U.S., most elite players enter all but 2-3 events.
"We're not worried about field quality at Kingsmill," Podany said.
"It's a great tournament and a great golf course to get ready for the British Open," Lincicome said.
The 2012 rebirths of Kingsmill and the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic, a tournament that shuttered in 2010 after 24 consecutive years, represent marked progress for an enterprise that many thought on life support when Whan took over.
Last year, for example, the LPGA staged only 23 tournaments, 13 in the U.S., and the schedule was marred by weeks of mid-season inactivity. Contrast that to 2009, when the tour staged 30 events, 25 in the U.S.
The LPGA continues to have a foreign flavor — Taiwan's Yani Tseng was the tour's Player of the Year in 2010 and '11 — but five of last season's top-10 money leaders were American, including No. 2 Cristie Kerr, a two-time Kingsmill winner.
Upon winning Kingsmill in 2009, and knowing the tournament was in jeopardy, Kerr joked that she would sponsor the event if necessary.
"I wish I had that kind of money," she said Wednesday. "I couldn't be happier (about the return). ,,, For me it's just the whole atmosphere of the event. Great golf course, the history behind the area. ... The fans and spectators are some of the best on tour."
"A lot of excitement on our end because we know how popular the event was with our players," Podany said, "and what a huge statement it is for the momentum of the LPGA Tour. … Obviously we're both going into this with the hope that it's here to stay."
David Teel can be reached at 757-247-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/sports/teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP