New sponsors give stability to popular LPGA Kingsmill tournament

Staff writer

Golfers on the LPGA Tour routinely rave about Kingsmill Resort and its surrounding area, but Brooke Pancake took it a step further Tuesday.

The 28-year-old seventh-year pro could see herself settling in permanently.

A former NCAA champion for Alabama, Pancake makes sure to visit Colonial Williamsburg and/or Busch Gardens every time she’s in town. The area’s richness is part of the draw that will bring world-class players to next month’s newly named Pure Silk Championship at Kingsmill’s River Course.

“I’ve traveled and seen the world, but if I was to move somewhere to just live, it would be here,” Pancake said, speaking at a media event held in advance of the tournament. “The community, the feel, the family-friendliness here — I could easily live here and be ecstatic.”

The tournament, after a years-long search for a title sponsor, now has a stable home of its own. Kingsmill, which has sponsored the event itself in years past, signed a three-year deal with Pure Silk last summer that will keep the tournament in the Williamsburg area through 2021.

The new partnership means changes — some more subtle than others — to the tournament’s look.

Conventional concessions will not be sold when this year’s event starts May 20. Instead, six local food trucks will be on site to feed the masses.

A new vehicle entrance for fans will be located closer to the resort entrance, and the skyboxes surrounding Kingsmill’s greens will have more color and be laid out differently. Longtime attendees might notice some landscaping differences.

“It’ll just feel fresher,” said Matthew Schulze, the tournament’s director since 2013. “I think we’ve always been pretty traditional when it came to a lot of that stuff.”

Pancake attended Tuesday’s media event in place of defending champion Ariya Jutanugarn, who had a scheduling conflict.

Both players — Jutanugarn via a recorded video message — praised Kingsmill and its new partnership with Pure Silk, which manufactures shaving products for women and sponsors 20 tour players.

“Kingsmill has a special place in my heart and will always be a special tournament,” said the Thailand-born Jutanugarn, the third-ranked player in the world.

“You couldn’t have picked a better tournament to sponsor.”

Pure Silk, though, isn’t alone. Visit Williamsburg, the area’s tourism arm, is serving as a presenting partner.

Schulze said several branding strategies were discussed before organizers settled on the tournament’s full, official name: The Pure Silk Championship presented by Visit Williamsburg.

“You’re going to see that everywhere,” Kingsmill chief operating officer John Hilker said. “And we are just delighted about those two key partnerships as we go forward.”

Added Schulze: “It tells you what we want you to do. We want you to come to Williamsburg.”

That’s sounds like a plan to Pancake, who missed all of last season when a back injury was followed by the birth of her daughter Lucy last May.

The LPGA Tour put Pure Silk in touch with Kingsmill officials when it became clear that the company’s sponsored season-opening tournament in the Bahamas wasn’t going to continue after six years.

The two sides finalized the deal in August, lending a measure of stability to a popular stop on the circuit.

The 2019 event will mark the 37th consecutive year Williamsburg will have held a pro golf tournament. It’ll be the first not sponsored by the owner of the resort.

It’s not likely anyone in the tournament’s 144-woman field will mind returning.

“All the players on tour, it’s one of their favorite places,” Pancake said. “And that speaks highly just of the golf course and everything around.”

Tournament facts

What: LPGA Pure Silk Championship presented by Visit Williamsburg.

Where: Kingsmill Resort's River Course.

When: Various events from May 20-26 (first round May 23).

Defending champion: Ariya Jutanugarn.

TV: Golf Channel (times TBA).

Website: kingsmill.com/lpga-championship/

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