LPGA rookie star's endorsement deal a first for Metro Detroit company

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — Things are getting better on the LPGA these days, and not just the talent, which is arguably at the highest level its been in well over a decade, if not longer.

Financially, the situation has improved greatly, particularly this year with the purses. For example, on the eve of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship, tour officials announced they were doubling the total prize money, from $4.5 million to $9 million.

But there's still a ways to go to adequately line the pockets of the best women golfers in the world, particularly when it comes to corporate sponsorships.

Sophia Schubert, a rookie star on the LPGA, is now sponsored by a wholesale-insurance company from Metro Detroit.

"It's a lot harder than you would think," said Sophia Schubert, an LPGA rookie who is fresh off a second-place finish at the Evian Championship, an LPGA major, in France. "A lot of people think once you get your LPGA card, you have people knocking down your door wanting to sponsor you, and that's just not the case. It's getting better, though. The LPGA is definitely helping players start out, helping rookies and new people coming out to the LPGA, helping them get connected.

"But it's a lot harder that people will think."

For all too long, corporations have been eager to pay to put their logo on the shirts, hats and bags of just about anybody on the PGA Tour. They haven't been as willing with the LPGA.

But there are positive signs, starting with Schubert, who this week signed a contract to be a brand ambassador for Farmington Hills-based Burns & Wilcox, a global wholesale insurance broker.

Schubert is the first LPGA player to join Burns & Wilcox's golf portfolio. The company has endorsement deals with PGA Tour members Max Homa and Webb Simpson, both of whom are playing in this week's Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club, as well as 2016 PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker.

Schubert flew into town this week, and visit her sponsor's headquarters for an ice-cream social, participated in the company's charity back-to-school backpack stuffing, and then got to meet two of her new colleagues for the first time Wednesday night at an event at Franklin Hills Country Club in Farmington Hills.

And, by the way, no, Schubert wasn't planning to request that Homa break down here swing, as is his hilarious — and often sarcastic — schtick with fans on Twitter.

"I don't know if I want that," Schubert, 26, said with a laugh. "He's kind of brutal, isn't he?

"I might wait on that one."

Truth is, Homa probably would like what he'd see, particularly lately. 

Schubert, a University of Texas alum who won the 2017 U.S. Women's Amateur, was runner-up to Brooke Henderson at Evian, finishing second by one stroke. It was here best finish on the LPGA, and she was playing just her second major as a professional.

It also happened to be one of the first weeks she was wearing Burns & Wilcox's logo on her shirts, immediate exposure for the Metro Detroit company.

“This partnership is the latest example of our commitment to support professionals and amateur athletes, helping them succeed in their careers long-term." Danny Kaufman, president of Burns & Wilcox, said in officially announcing the partnership Sunday. "We look forward to seeing Sophia represent the Burns & Wilcox brand and wish her the best of luck on the LPGA.”

Burns & Wilcox, which has been in business for 52 years and spring bought the old Lear building in Detroit, behind the Book Cadillac, is the latest local company to get into business with the LPGA.

Rocket Mortgage, which long has sponsored Rickie Fowler and for a year sponsored Bryson DeChambeau (until he left for the LIV golf tour earlier this year), signed LPGA star Lexi Thompson in June 2021. Albeit a lower profile, Rocket Mortgage also has a logo on Liz Nagel, an LPGA player from DeWitt and a former standout golfer at Michigan State.

Schubert said the trend is going in the right direction in terms of opportunities for female golfers.

But she hopes this is just the start of bigger things to come, for herself and her peers.

"There's been a big push the last few years to raise the purses and get more sponsorships," said Schubert, a Tennessee native who played both LPGA events in Michigan this year — finishing 76th at the Meijer LPGA Classic outside Grand Rapids in June, and 35th at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational team event in Midland in July, with fellow rookie Amanda Doherty, out of Florida State, as her partner. "We don't get televised as much, but I've heard people say, 'We love watching the women as much as the men.' We work just as hard, we're just as good — if not better. ... I think it's just gonna take a company like Burns & Wilcox that are now sponsoring someone on the LPGA to start that push.

"When one person does it, maybe more will."

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tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984