The change was made with the hope of attracting the best possible field of players.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
VIENNA -- The LPGA Tour will be coming to the Mahoning Valley almost a month earlier than in recent years.
The Giant Eagle LPGA Classic, held in July for the past 10 years, will move to early June next season.
Next year's event is slated for June 9 through 15 at Squaw Creek Country Club. It will be the first time the entire tournament has been held in June.
Previously in 1994 and again in 1995 the event started in late June and ran into early July.
"We felt that this was our best option to pull in the best field for next season," said Giant Eagle Tournament Manager Tim Wicinski. "We will be in the most perfect position."
The tournament will follow the McDonald's LPGA Championship and precede the Wegman's Rochester International.
Good field in 2002
This year's tournament was held from July 15-21 and drew one of the best fields in the event's history. Korean Mi Hyun Kim was the 2002 champion.
There could be one problem -- weather. Northeast Ohio can sometimes be wet and cold in early June.
"We have no control over the weather," Wicinski said. "We know that Squaw Creek Country Club will be in tremendous condition no matter when we hold the event.
"Who knows? It might be just a little cooler than it has been the last couple of years around here for the tournament," he said.
Executive director Eddie Thomas said he was happy with the June date.
"It allows us the best opportunity to draw top players while at the same time provide us with some great opportunities for sponsorship and promotions that we have not previously had in July," he said.
"Next year our original date in July would not have been that appealing to us," Wicinski said. "Next year the U.S. Women's Open would be right around that time and it is way out on the West Coast."
Good for junior volunteers
The new date will also help draw young volunteers, Wicinski said.
"They will just be getting out of school for summer vacation when the tournament comes here," he said. "They can work the tournament, then have the rest of the summer to themselves."
"We checked things out very thoroughly before we made this decision," added Wicinski. "The June 9-15 date is definitely the best fit for us."
Last year's tournament raised a record $457,000 for local children's and educational charities in the Mahoning Valley. The tournament is operated by Mahoning Valley Sports Charities, a non-profit organization, who in 10 years has donated $3,364,000 to local charities.