Return to May date could bring record crowds to LPGA's Kingsmill Championship

Last year's Kingsmill Championship ended Sept. 10. This year's begins May 2. The short turnaround created some headaches for preparing the Williamsburg resort and its River Course for the LPGA Tour, but nothing like last year.

"Last year when we started planning, we announced I believe January 11 that the LPGA was coming back, we had our monster scoreboard that goes up on the 18th hole," said Wayne Nooe, Kingsmill's director of golf. "That's all we had. We had no staff, no office, no website, no collateral. …

"We had the confidence that our volunteers, for the most part, would come back, which they did. And we had the confidence the community would support the event, which they did, from sponsorship and ticket sales. And we had the confidence (in) … a lot of staff at Kingsmill that had been involved in the event in the past.

"But from the standpoint of getting organized and getting things going, last year was a lot tougher just trying to get the wheels to spin."

In its first partnership with Kingsmill, from 2003-09, the LPGA Tour played in May. As an 11th-hour addition to the 2012 schedule, Kingsmill settled for a September date with the agreement of a May return this year.

LPGA advance officials arrive Tuesday to begin surveying the par-71 layout, and according to Nooe, they'll like what they see.

"The golf course is in really good shape," he said. "With the warm weather we had last week, it is really starting to come around. When you've got a golf course with the rye grass and overseeded Bermuda, it just stripes up so nice, looks good on TV. Spring in Williamsburg is such a pretty time."

Like last year, the Golf Channel will televise the tournament. Unlike last year, the broadcast schedule does not dictate an unusually early start and finish to Saturday's third round. Instead, competition Saturday is scheduled to conclude at approximately 6 p.m.

Nooe believes that change and returning to May could produce record galleries.

"Our ticket sales are pacing ahead of last year," he said, "and I honestly think last year we might have set a record if our play had not finished so early on Saturday because of television. And on that same Saturday we finished early, William and Mary had a home (football) game, (Virginia) had a home game, Virginia Tech had a home game and there was the (NASCAR) race in Richmond. There was a lot of competition for people's time."

The 2012 tournament concluded with an extraordinary, nine-hole, sudden-death playoff between Jiyai Shin and Paula Creamer. Kingsmill's overtime format called for competitors to play the par-4 18th until a winner was determined, and the pair dueled on 18 eight times, each making repeated pars, until darkness forced a delay until Monday morning.

Only then did tournament officials alter the playoff format. Shin defeated Creamer on Monday's first extra hole, the par-4 16th.

Kingsmill and LPGA officials will discuss the playoff format this week.

"We've always asked that the playoff stay on the 18th hole," Nooe said, "and we did that because we wanted the fans [in the 18th green grandstands] to stay and to be able to see it. … If you take the playoff away from 18, I would think a lot of people would leave.

"So we've always requested the playoff remain on 18, and the LPGA has accommodated that. I don't think any of us would have anticipated eight holes on the same day. … I'm sure that's something (the LPGA will) want to talk about, and I think from our standpoint we would like to see the 18th hole played as many times as possible within reason."

The only other LPGA playoff at Kingsmill was in 2007, when Suzann Pettersen defeated Jee Young Lee on the third extra hole.

"Last year, I don't anyone could have ever anticipated that long of a playoff. It was great drama for the spectators. I think it was good television. But I think the downside obviously is for the players to play the same hole (repeatedly). I would like to think we could play the 18th a few times before we moved."