The famous Sky Woman Trophy is being retired, at least for now, and the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic is most likely a thing of the past.
A newspaper report published Wednesday raised the question of whether the future of Thornberry Creek at Oneida Golf Club could be in limbo, too.
The Oneida Nation, presenting sponsor of the event for its three-year run at the tribal-owned Thornberry Creek at Oneida GC, voted July 24 to end title sponsorship of the $2 million event. Minutes from the Oneida Business Committee meeting indicate that all five tribal council members at the session vote in favor of the decision. The minutes show three members were absent.
The move comes as no surprise for an event that, despite offering one of the largest purses of a non-major championship, failed to attract many of the marquee names in women's golf, let alone the spectators to watch the golfers who did make the Green Bay area an annual stop the last three years. As recently as May, tribal leaders admitted there was only a "50-50" chance the event would continue beyond 2019 and the end of its three-year contract.
In a statement Wednesday published by the Green Bay Press Gazette, Oneida Nation tribal chair Tehassi Hill, who was not at the meeting where the vote took place, confirmed the tribe is no longer interested in sponsoring an LPGA Tour event on its signature golf course. However, he indicated it would gladly continue to host the event if another sponsor wanted to fill that void.
Oneida officials have long maintained the event brought the tribe and its golf course the exposure they were seeking in 2016 when the unveiled ambitious plans to host the event for the first time. Announced attendance figures of 62,000 the first year and 64,000 the second topped expectations, although this year's event seem to lack the fan interest it enjoyed the first two years.
“Although this has been a great event to showcase all Oneida has to offer and was a great opportunity for generating tourism dollars in our area, the return on the investment did not allow for us to achieve the business goals of the Oneida Nation," Hill said in the statement posted on the Press Gazette Website. "The improvements to the course and clubhouse will still have far-reaching positive impacts to highlight our championship golf course. As a 'Proud Partner of the Green Bay Packers' and home of the past LPGA events, our course has reached a high profile in the region and is known for the excellence of play and customer service. We would like to see this event remain at Thornberry Creek at Oneida, and welcome another major sponsor take over the title sponsorship.”
In its three years on the LPGA schedule, the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic developed a reputation as a tournament in which golfers had to go low if they wanted to vie for what was recognized as one of the most unique trophies in all of professional golf. The combined winning score of the event's three champions — 2017 winner Katherine Kirk (22-under), 2018 champion Sei-Young Kim (an LPGA Tour-record 31-under) and 2019 winner Shanshan Feng of China (29-under) — was 82-under. Meanwhile, Patty Tavatanakit set the 18-hole tournament scoring record with a 61 on the final day this year.
According to the Press Gazette, however, an April report detailing a projected $1.9 million shortfall in tournament revenues indicated that the Oneida Nation might exit the golf business altogether and sell or close its 27-hole course.
"If it appears that there is no turning point, the (Oneida Business Committee) has committed to review whether (Thornberry Creek operator Oneida Golf Enterprises) should be dissolved and the golf course transferred to Oneida Casino or the Oneida Airport Hotel Corporation as an amenity or simply closed," the report's conclusion states, according to the newspaper.