published Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Chattanooga companies sponsoring LPGA Tour rookie Brooke Pancake

Chattanooga native and Baylor graduate Brooke Pancake stands on the Walnut Street Bridge in downtown Chattanooga. Pancake will be playing golf on the LPGA tour this year.
Chattanooga native and Baylor graduate Brooke Pancake stands on the Walnut Street Bridge in downtown Chattanooga. Pancake will be playing golf on the LPGA tour this year.
Photo by Doug Strickland.

IF YOU WATCH

The Australian Open will be televised on the Golf Channel today and Friday from 12:30-2:30 p.m., Saturday from 3-6 p.m. and Sunday from 3-6:30 p.m. All times are Eastern. The Golf Channel is Channel 36 on Chattanooga Comcast cable.

Brooke Pancake has sported uniforms while playing golf for Baylor School and the University of Alabama, and during the Curtis Cup she wore the Stars and Stripes of the United States.

The Chattanooga native's professional golf attire will have new and different logos.

Two locally based companies have decided to sponsor the three-time All-American as she begins her rookie season on the LPGA Tour with their insignias stitched into her gear.

Several national brands also will adorn Pancake's outfits as she begins competing against the world's best female golfers.

The Patten-Vaughn Wealth Management Group, whose parent company is Raymond James, has agreed to a multiyear contract with Pancake so she doesn't have to worry about the costs of playing on tour.

"I'm used to the simplicity of golf, where you practice and play," Pancake said before flying across the globe to play in the Women's Australian Open that begins today. "But now there's a lot more business to it.

"This sponsorship is most beneficial to me and gives security in this [business] area, which is new to me."

PlayCore, a Chattanooga-based developer of play and recreation equipment, has partnered with Pancake as well. Senior Lifestyle Corp. and the women's apparel company Lija are her other nongolfing sponsors.

She has a contract with Callaway to provide her clubs, balls and other golf gear, and she'll be wearing FootJoy spikes.

"She is probably the most-sponsored rookie on tour," said Pancake's agent, J.S. Kang of Sterling Sports Management, which selects just one female golfer per year as a client and has LPGA player of the year Stacy Lewis on its roster. "It will provide Brooke the security to go out and not have to worry about her expenses as she pursues her dream."

Details of the contracts were not divulged.

COSTS, CONNECTIONS

Kang said the Patten-Vaughn endorsement is enough that Pancake doesn't have to worry about covering a wide range of travel and other expenses while playing for paychecks. LPGA purses range from $1 million to $3.2 million for major tournaments, but traveling to play in countries from Australia to Canada, China and the Bahamas could max out the credit cards of most 22-year-olds.

"The cost of a season varies depending on how many tournaments you play," Kang said. "It could be anywhere between $50,000 and $100,000."

Chattanooga is banking on one of its own. The ties go back to Pancake's four Tennessee Division II-AA team and individual championships in four seasons at Baylor School here.

Her high school coach, King Oehmig, is the father of Patten-Vaughn financial adviser John Oehmig, who sparked the idea of Raymond James sponsoring Pancake. And the son of PlayCore CEO Bob Farnsworth played golf at Baylor with Pancake.

"There's a trust aspect," said David Patten, Patten-Vaughn's vice president of investments. "We really see what she's accomplished, what she represents and what she's been through."

Both the Patten-Vaughn group and PlayCore are making their first forays into professional sports sponsorships with Pancake, and Patten and Kang said Raymond James does not sponsor any other LPGA Tour members.

"There is a nice local connection there," PlayCore spokeswoman Anne-Marie Spencer said on behalf of Farnsworth, who has been in the Northeast this week.

"We approached her because of her commitment to sport, and our whole mission and value is about promoting play and recreation."

PLAYER POTENTIAL

Pancake has potential for future endorsements -- big ones -- from national and international companies if she succeeds on the LPGA Tour.

She is an attractive young lady, generally an asset for marketing plans. She graduated from Alabama with a 4.0 grade-point average as a marketing major. She has endured extreme emotional pain -- the loss of her father to suicide during her senior year at Baylor -- and continued to move forward, and she is remarkably talented at golf.

Her amateur career was stellar, including her spot on the U.S. Curtis Cup team last summer, and she sank the winning putt to give Alabama a one-stroke win in the NCAA tournament in June.

"I know she will have a great career," Alabama coach Mic Potter said. "She is very consistent, she hits almost every fairway, she has a variety of shots in her arsenal."

Potter said Pancake will need to focus most on her chipping and bunker play.

Pancake said she secured her first sponsorship, from Senior Lifestyle, after playing in a pro-am tournament with company officials in the Jamie Farr Classic before she earned her LPGA Tour card in December.

"The LPGA will be another adversity, so I'm going to have to get in the water and learn the ropes," she said. "There's a huge security knowing I made the tour, and I'm secure with the Patten-Vaughn group. Hopefully everything will keep going well, I'll play well this year and good things will keep going."

Pancake said she celebrated the arrival of her new outfits from Lija -- embroidered with the sponsor logos -- with her mother when they arrived at their Chattanooga home.

She'll be sporting local support on her sleeves. And many Chattanoogans are supporting her.

"She's an incredible competitor who bounces back from adversity, and I can't wait to see how well she'll do," said Bruce Etter, head pro at Chattanooga Golf and Country Club, where Pancake started her junior career.

"If she is successful -- and she has been at everything she's done -- I think she can resurrect the LPGA Tour and bring a new positive face to [it]," he said. "She could knock the top off of it. Once she gets her legs under her, I think the sky is the limit."

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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