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Twitter, other social media avenues are used by LPGA, pros to connect to fans

07/14/2014, 12:05am EDT
By RACHEL LENZI BLADE SPORTS WRITER
LPGA encourages to hashtag away

Beatriz Recari hits from a fairway bunker on 15 during the third round of the Marathon Classic at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Saturday, July 20, 2013. Blade

As Beatriz Recari promoted the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last month in Sylvania, the defending tournament champion took a few minutes to find the intersection of Main Street and Monroe Street.

She took to Twitter to post a picture of herself standing at the intersection, renamed for each year’s Marathon Classic winner.

“So cool!! I have my own drive! Thanks so much @MarathonLPGA #mediaday

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Their 36-hole score might be better than yours, and their paychecks might be a little heftier, but when it comes to using social media, golfers on the LPGA Tour are similar to the common folk. When it comes to summing up their thoughts in 140 characters or less, the LPGA has caught the social media wave.

Tina Barnes-Budd, the LPGA’s senior director of social media marketing/​communications, estimates that more than 80 percent of the golfers on the tour use social media, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Don’t be surprised to see many of them posting this week from or en route to the Marathon Classic, which begins Thurdsay at Highland Meadows Golf Club.

Even the caddies on the LPGA Tour are promoting social media. Two years ago, the LPGA began to put Twitter handles on the bibs of each golfer’s caddie, an idea that Barnes-Budd drew from a minor-league hockey promotion in which players put their Twitter handles on the backs of their jerseys.

The LPGA has seen exponential growth on its social media feeds. Barnes-Budd said the LPGA’s Facebook following has increased 157 percent from last year, and its Twitter feed, @LPGA, has increased 60 percent from last year.

Sports Illustrated named LPGA golfer Christina Kim as one of its top 100 Twitter accounts (@TheChristinaKim) in sports, calling it “Funny, honest commentary through the eyes of a professional golfer.” She’ll post about her love for the San Francisco Giants, and occasional displeasure with her golf game.

At last year’s Marathon Classic, Kim didn’t make the cut, and took to Twitter to vent.

“After I played like donkey teeth, I get the honor of being told I get to be drug tested. Delightful.”

Kim, however, was one of the tour’s trailblazers for social media. Five years ago, the LPGA held a player summit and discussed ways in which the golfers could engage with the fans more. Engagement, explained Barnes-Budd, produces a certain domino effect.

“Fans follow you more, which means more eyeballs on the tour, which means more impressions that can be made for current and potential sponsors,” Barnes-Budd said.

When officials asked players at the 2009 summit if they used Twitter, only five hands went up — including Kim’s.

Kim discussed her use of Twitter and the benefits of it, and slowly, players began to sign up for the microblogging site.

“As time went on, it took some convincing from the higher-ups for us to spend more time on social media,” Barnes-Budd said. “As the players started engaging on it, they found it a great way to be ambassadors.”

After Michelle Wie won the U.S. Women’s Open last month, she used her Twitter account to document everywhere in New York City she traveled with the championship trophy — from giving putting lessons to the morning crew at Fox and Friends to posing at the top of the Empire State Building, adding the hashtag “#WIEinNYC.”

Stacy Lewis, who was born in Toledo, also made a point to take a selfie of her with the championship trophy from her wins last month at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship and in May at the North Texas LPGA shootout.

Lewis has made it a habit to point and click after winning tournaments, part of the LPGA’s “#winnerselfies” initiative. The LPGA also has a “#quoteoftheday” segment on its Twitter feed, featuring a statement by an LPGA golfer on an image from the tournament.

“We’re not scared to try new things,” Barnes-Budd said. “We’re starting to get noticed because we’re thinking outside the box. We’ve put more resources in our social media program this year.”

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.

LPGA on Twitter

■Beatriz Recari: @beatrizrecari

■Christina Kim: @thechristinakim

■Michelle Wie: @themichellewie

■Natalie Gulbis: @natalie_gulbis

■Stacy Lewis: @stacy_lewis

■ Lydia Ko: @lko424

■So Yeon Ryu: @1soyeonryu

■Paula Creamer: @thepcreamer

■LPGA: @lpga

■Marathon Classic: @MarathonLPGA

■Tournament hashtag: #MarathonClassic

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Tag(s): Pro  Golf  Rachel Lenzi  Marathon Classic