CME Group CEO moves on from last year’s LPGA leadership misstep to elevate women’s sport even higher

NAPLES, Fla. – What a difference a year makes. One year ago, CME Group Chairman and CEO Terry Duffy was “exceptionally disappointed” in how events outside the ropes unfolded at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The future of one of the most lucrative events on the LPGA schedule was uncertain after not one player showed up to Duffy’s Tuesday night dinner. Duffy’s beef was more with tour leadership than with the players.

“They better get their act together,” Duffy told Golfweek last year, “because they’re going to lose people like me over stuff like this.”

One year later, Duffy and LPGA commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan were posing together for pictures after a blockbuster announcement that included a purse increase from $7 million to $11 million in 2024 and a first-place prize of $4 million, up from $2 million this year. CME also announced a two-year contract extension. Beginning next year, the tour championship will boast the largest first-place prize in all of women’s sport.

2023 CME Group Tour Championship
2023 CME Group Tour Championship

CME Group CEO Terry Duffy speaks to the media after announcing a two-year sponsor extension of the CME Group Tour Championship with an increased $11 million purse and record $4 million first-place prize during a news conference at The Ritz-Carlton Naples in Naples, Florida. (Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Duffy said he and Marcoux Samaan got together several times throughout the year, and that those conversations helped give him confidence to move forward with the LPGA.

“I think it was more of a breakdown more than anything else,” said Duffy of last year’s drama. “As I said, when communications go bad, a lot of other things can snowball with it. I think we started to see a little bit of that.”

The format for this year’s Tuesday night festivities was different than last year but LPGA officials reported that every player in the field showed up.

“As Terry said, communication is the key,” said Marcoux Samaan, “and being accountable for things that don’t go perfectly. We had communication right after the incident and we continued during the season. As he said all along, I just wanted to push you guys to be better. We moved on right away and moved on to the future and we moved on to continuing to work together to elevate the tour and elevate our impact.”

This marks the 10th anniversary of the CME Race to the Globe points list, which is used to not only determine the season-ending field, but also who gets a card for next season.

CME first became title sponsor of the LPGA season-ending event in 2011 with a purse of $1.5 million.

For years, Duffy’s efforts as title sponsor have pushed other events on the LPGA – particularly the majors – to raise the bar. But another reason Duffy wants the CME Group Tour Championship to be so lucrative is to ensure that players circle this event on their calendars as a must-make week. And to get here, they might have to tee it up in more events along the way, thus lifting the entire tour.

It’s worth noting, of course, that neither Lexi Thompson nor Lydia Ko are here this week. Both are past champions of this event, with Ko sweeping all the post-season honors last year after winning the title and $2 million prize. Thompson played in only 14 events on the LPGA schedule this season. Ko competed in 20.

More: Notable players missing from this week’s CME Group Tour Championship field

While purses on the LPGA vary wildly, with nine full-field events in 2023 having a purse of $2 million or less compared to major championship purses that are $9 million and $11 million, CME points act as a leveler. Players earn 500 CME points for a victory whether the purse is $1.5 million or $3.5 million. At the majors, players receive 650 points for a victory.

“I am trying to be a catalyst for women’s golf,” said Duffy. “Not against the other sponsors. So if, in fact, they want to up their purses, great. But I don’t think it’s absolutely – and I know Mollie is not going to want to hear me say this – absolutely necessary.

“That’s up to them to decide. The last thing you want to do is chase anybody away.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek