Call it the Reverse Corporate Retreat. Businesses routinely schedule outings at Kingsmill so that the employees can play golf. This time, golfers came to the resort to talk business.
The LPGA, in advance of this week's Stella Artois Wannabe Open, convened a two-day summit here that was part pep rally, part action plan and full-on seminar.
"If you analyze and look at any good business in the United States," LPGA bigfoot player and past Kingsmill champ Cristie Kerr said, "they do team building and they do corporate retreat weekends. We're no different. We need this to have one team and one vision. It's definitely necessary. We don't get to spend a lot of time together, and we've had a lot of fun this weekend."
More than 100 players heard presentations from LPGA brass and various speakers on strategies to navigate the struggling economy and the sorts of things they can do — they must do — in order to flourish.
LPGA commish Carolyn Bivens described the weekend as an organizational road map for the next 4-5 years, with an operating philosophy of what she called "executional excellence."
"Taking a page from our players," Bivens said, "in that no matter how well they're playing, they want to play even better. The idea of the business of the LPGA should be that whatever we choose to do, we should do it exceptionally well. Executional excellence is the underpinning for that."
Made-up words aside, the players described a weekend that was both inspirational and illuminating.
"What we've been doing is great," Kerr said, "but we all basically have to do a lot better, a lot better on the stuff outside the ropes."
Sporting and women's-rights legend Billie Jean King parachuted in Saturday and spoke about the challenges she and her pioneering brethren (sisteren?) overcame. Hall of Famers Nancy Lopez and Judy Rankin were on hand to reinforce the ideas of connecting with fans and sponsors.
On Sunday, the players broke up into smaller groups and listened to presentations on areas such as economic empowerment and increased exposure. They learned about the economics of staging a tournament.
At the end of the proceedings Sunday, the LPGA brought everyone back together and staged a kind of team quiz show — a light-hearted, yet competitive way of determining who paid attention and how much everyone absorbed. Just for kicks, they also brought in the Jamestown High Marching Band drumline for a quick performance.
The women hooted and hollered and had a blast.
But that's sort of the point. The women are different. Looser. More engaging. More accessible. Sure, they have to be, but it also seems more natural to them.
"The players, with the way the economy is," Lopez said Sunday evening, "they just need to keep giving to our fans, to our sponsors, to the tournament directors working hard, so that if a decision comes up — should we keep an LPGA event or should we not? — maybe that might affect the decision.
"The harder they see the players work, as much as they see the players giving to try and save an event by being themselves, by playing great golf and by being good people, it might sound kind of mushy, but I think it means a lot when you're sincere to people and you do your job right, and you support something like an event, I think it's important."
The LPGA last held a similar summit in 2002 in Phoenix. The emphasis there was on what they called the five points of celebrity — a more individual road map for the players to market themselves and the tour.
This summit emphasized the collective, the Three Musketeers paradigm: Outside the ropes, it has to be all for one and one for all, and everyone needs to step it up a bit.
Sign a few more autographs. Interact with the fans a little more. Visit with corporate sponsors. Understand the terrain. Take advantage of every opportunity and create some on your own.
For example, a couple of players visited the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush on Monday. A handful of players are headed to Toano today to help build a house for Habitat for Humanity. More might get involved the next time.
And honestly, who wouldn't want to see Morgan Pressel wield a nailgun?
"There's way too many optimistic people with the LPGA," Kerr said. "We know the economy is going to turn around soon, so if we look at this as an opportunity and try and work hard through the tough times, we'll come out on top."
Dave Fairbank can be reached at 247-4637 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more from Fairbank, read his blog at dailypress.com/fromthetarpit.