By Andrew Both
(Reuters) - A joint event featuring men and women is among the aims of former competitive rower Alex Baldwin as she begins her term as president of the secondary Web.com Tour.
Baldwin was appointed last month and is still learning the ins and outs of the circuit that traditionally has been a stepping stone for players eyeing the lucrative main tour.
The organisation already boasts a diverse workforce in the office, and women could soon be better represented on the greens.
LPGA commissioner Mike Whan says he expects to announce a venture with the PGA Tour within the next year.
Baldwin is keen to do likewise with her circuit.
"I would love to see us find an opportunity to have a joint tournament," she said in a telephone interview this week with Reuters.
It is likely the event would be along the lines of the recent Vic Open in Australia, where the sexes teed up in alternate groups – men playing a European Tour event and women an LPGA tournament, for equal prize money.
Though, Baldwin added that it would probably be with the LPGA's secondary Symetra Tour rather than the main women's circuit for now.
However as the first woman to head any of the PGA Tour's six circuits, Baldwin points out that the body is moving in the right direction.
"Our workforce is 42 percent female," she said.
"Today more than ever, people are paying attention and committed to closing the (gender) gap. It's proven that having diversity in leadership positions has an extremely positive impact on our business."
Baldwin has been at the tour for two years, after a career that started at International Management Group and later included a stint at Fenway Sports Group, parent company of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool Football Club.
"This happened very quickly. (It) was not some master plan," she said of her new position. She replaced previous president Dan Glod, who moved to another role at the PGA Tour.
SCRATCHING THE SURFACE
On another vexing issue facing golf, she did not rule out experimenting with the introduction of a shot clock to speed up play.
This was tested to overwhelming success at a European Tour event in Austria last year, at which players were allotted a certain amount of time for each shot and penalised if they were too slow.
Players adapted so quickly that the rounds were completed some 30 minutes quicker than the usual soporific near-five-hour average for a threesome.
"I am still just starting to scratch the surface," Baldwin said. "I haven't dug into any of that but we're open to thinking about different things."
This year's schedule comprises 27 events with purses ranging from a minimum of $550,000 to a maximum of $1 million, a relative pittance compared with the $6 million-plus most weeks on the main tour.
Seventy players last year made a six-figure amount on the secondary circuit, which is not meant to make players rich, but instead give them a chance of earning a decent living while trying to hone their games for the next level.
"This is an opportunity of a lifetime. We are committed to the best possible schedule (and giving our members) playing opportunities," Baldwin said.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Christian Radnedge)