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Won’t give up on competition or raising children. Thoughts of the Japan Ladies Professional Golfers’ Association (JLPGA) for establishing childcare facilities

Aiming to create an environment in which every athlete can show excellent performance. Sumitomo Corporation, which promotes the active participation of diverse human resources under the slogan of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, and the Japan Ladies Professional Golfers’ Association (hereinafter referred to as JLPGA) have jointly established a childcare facilities where the children of players and members can be taken care of during matches. In the latter part of this article, we interviewed JLPGA President Hiromi Kobayashi about the circumstances pertaining to establishing the childcare facilities and efforts to promote the growth of women’s professional golf.

This content was originally published in October 2023.

  • Japan Ladies Professional Golfers’ Association (JLPGA) President

    Hiromi Kobayashi

    She has shown excellent performance as a professional golfer in Japan and international tours since she turned professional in 1984. She won a total of 15 tournaments including on the US and European tours. She became the 6th President of the Japan Ladies Professional Golfers’ Association in February 2011.

Long-desired childcare facilities established. A big step toward improving the tournament environment

What do you think about the “JLPGA Welcome Babies & Kids Project Supported by Sumitomo Corporation”?

I really appreciate it. I am truly grateful to Sumitomo Corporation for their great support, as childcare support is increasingly needed by the athletes year by year and we are exploring the possibility to realize this long-desired objective. In virtue of their support, we were able to take a big step toward improving the working environment for JLPGA tour professional players.
I first joined the US tour tournament in 1990. At that time, in the ladies professional golf tour in the US, childcare facilities had already been prepared at the venues and nearby hotels. I’m very pleased to, at last, establish childcare facilities at women’s golf tournament tours in Japan.

What do you think about the changes brought to the JLPGA tournament environment?

The environment for tournaments has improved with each tournament, and others are due to social changes, such as the “decrease in the number of caddies at golf courses and the significant increase in the number of accompanying caddies.” However, it is recognized that there have been very few uniform changes across the tour for decades.
I think the reason can be attributed to the tournament system that originated at the beginning of the Japan professional golf tour. JLPGA tournaments are held according to tournament rules and agreements. However, facility management at each venue is determined by the championship side, which are the sponsors of the tournament.
Accordingly, the JLPGA needs to take various initiatives, work positively, and negotiate respectively with each sponsor while obtaining understanding from them to carry out the major efforts needed to change the tour environment, including improving the work environment for players.
In the latest big reform conducted by the JLPGA in 2022, it obtained all broadcasting rights for the official championships of the JLPGA tour. From now on as well, the JLPGA needs to take the initiative to carry out cross-sectional reform throughout the whole tour.
This time, the project for establishing childcare facilities was able to be greatly advanced since Summit Agro International, a group company of Sumitomo Corporation, had already taken the initiative of establishing such a facility at the Earth Mondahmin Cup.

”Desire to continue as a professional player for a long time.” To support players’ careers

This time, the scope of users of the childcare facilities has been expanded to include not only top players participating in tournaments, but also to the Step Up Tour and QT (*). I believe this has given an opportunity to athletes who would otherwise have given up on the sport, but what do you think about the challenges faced by various athletes ?

In Japan, as women become more active and society changes to become more diverse, professional athletes also need an environment where they can work while raising children even after marriage and childbirth. Furthermore, it can be said that all players wishing to participate in tournaments are looking for an environment where they do not have to give up their tour life.
The starting point for life on the tour is the QT (Qualifying tournament), which gives players the opportunity to play in matches. Depending on the QT results, the top players will be able to participate in the JLPGA Tour by order of rankings, while lower ranked players can participate in the Step Up Tour. Each player is working hard with the goal of winning the tournament and staying active as long as possible.
Establishing childcare facilities like with this project can provide an environment for players to continue participating the tour after marriage and childbirth. Then, I think that the players can broaden their horizons in terms of their desire to work and planning their lives, and it allows them to look at their lives over the long term.

(*) QT (Qualifying Tournament): A tournament to determine eligibility for the following year's JLPGA Tour and JLPGA Step Up Tour. Until the first reranking on the JLPGA Tour, eligibility is determined by the ranking in the Qualifying Tournament.

Please tell us the goal of the JLPGA.

Our target is “the PGA tour.” That goal is far, far away.
After all, it is a leader in the world of professional golf, and its various initiatives at tournaments are great entertainment, and it also provides ample returns and investments for players. And most of all, they are the greatest professional golf tour group and have achieved great success in the professional sports business.
First, as an association, the JLPGA established a medium-term business plan in FY 2013. In that year, due to the country's corporate reform conducted by the Japanese government, the JLPGA became a general incorporated association from an aggregate corporation, and was no longer a public interest organization protected by the government. We thought that our financial situation would become dire unless we managed the association like a company, because the conditions surrounding us would drastically change due to the emergence of new competitors, significantly reduced tax benefits, etc. This is the major reason for establishing the medium-term business plan.
With the professional sports business as our main vision, we focused on strengthening the JLPGA brand, the tour, and organizational capabilities, and implemented various reforms over the past 10 years such as measures to strengthen the tour and ownership of broadcasting rights with the aim of "winning on the world stage." In the medium-term plan JLPGA Vision 2025, which is in its fourth year this year, this association summarizes the JLPGA tours comprehensively to achieve sustainable growth and further development of the women's professional golf world.
The catchphrase of the association is “DRIVING BRIGHTER GREEN.” We will aim for even greater heights, not passively, but actively, while shining even brighter.

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