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ShopRite Classic folds after schedule dispute with LPGA
By TOM CANAVAN, AP Sports Writer
Published: Wednesday, October 25, 2006
The owners of the ShopRite LPGA Classic folded the 21-year-old event in the shadows of Atlantic City casino resort Wednesday, criticizing the LPGA Tour for taking away their traditional date and then failing to negotiate a workable replacement.

While expressing sadness, tournament chairman Larry Harrison said The Atlantic City LPG Benefit Association was left with no choice but to end the event after the LPGA Tour took away its traditional date in early June before the McDonald's LPGA Championship and awarded it to a Ginn Company-sponsored tournament in South Carolina.

LPGA spokeswoman Connie Wilson said Harrison's statement was "full of falsehoods and incorrect accounts."

"Weve directed our legal counsel to contact Mr. Harrisons attorney and have him rescind the statement," Wilson said.

Harrison insisted the date cancellation came after former LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw had made a commitment to stage the ShopRite event in early June through at least 2008.

Current commissioner Carolyn Bivens reneged on that promise and then refused to work with Harrison on finding a suitable replacement date, he said. Wilson said Bivens was not available to comment on Wednesday but would be on Thursday.

"In effect, there has been no true negotiation with the tour, and no direct communication with the tour commissioner or her staff throughout this process," Harrison said. "Rather, the tour, through its outside legal counsel, has simply offered a few undesirable and or unworkable dates, of which only one was even remotely acceptable."

Harrison said he attempted to negotiate a new contract with the LPGA, contingent upon reaching an agreement on a new date.

Tournament spokesman Rodger Gottlieb said the LPGA offered dates in April "when no course in New Jersey is playable," a week in mid-June opposite the U.S. Open and another in August that coincided with a non-LPGA event run by Annika Sorenstam in Sweden.

"Again, there was no meaningful negotiation, only a take it or leave it proposition on the part of the LPGA," Harrison said. "To make matters worse, the LPGA imposed unrealistic deadlines for execution of the agreement and showed no willingness to try to resolve issues surrounding the contract, all of which would have made it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to succeed going forward."

During its run, the event has offered $16 million in purses to LPGA players and raised more than $12 million for charities, Harrison said. Sorenstam and Betsy King were both three-time winners, with King's win in 1995 getting her into the Hall of Fame. Juli Inkster was the other multiple winner, taking the title twice.

Rookie Seon-Hwa Lee of South Korea posted her first LPGA Tour win in this year's event at the Seaview Resort and Spa course in Galloway Township.

"This is an outcome that we desperately hoped could be avoided, but, in the final analysis, it was made necessary by the decisions and actions on the part of the LPGA leadership," Harrison added.

The end of the ShopRite Classic could leave New Jersey without an LPGA event next year. The $2 million HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship ended its run at Hamilton Farm Golf Club in Gladstone earlier this year, and the organizers have not determined where it will be played next year.

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