After 11 years as LPGA commissioner, Mike Whan has decided to leave his post at some point in 2021.
Whan informed the LPGA’s Board of Directors of his decision, with his exit date still to be determined. The LPGA has started the process of identifying Whan’s successor.
In a letter to LPGA players, staff and sponsors, Whan shared that he spent longer in the gig than he originally imagined.
“When I first joined the LPGA, I told the Board it would be a four-year term, giving me time to help the organization achieve its immediate goals,” Whan said. “Now, as the longest-serving LPGA Commissioner, I look back on these 11 years with enormous pride and satisfaction at what we’ve accomplished together to provide opportunities for women to achieve their dreams in golf.”
Whan took over for Carolyn Bivens, whose tenure brought the LPGA to the brink of financial ruin. Bivens’ marketing decisions, including mandating foreign-born players learn to speak in English, combined with the Great Recession to decimate the LPGA schedule. When Whan took over, he had the difficult task of rebuilding a schedule. By embracing the global nature of his membership, Whan sought out a worldwide schedule. In taking a sponsor-first approach, Whan brought in new partners and kept many of them.
Now, Whan says he has no doubt that the LPGA has never been in a better position in terms of finances, sponsorship interest and momentum.
“You may be wondering why I’ve made the decision to step down – and why now? In many ways, this past year – with all the pandemic challenges – was also the LPGA’s most triumphant. We are entering 2021 on a wave of momentum – a strong schedule with record purses, new events/sponsors, double-digit viewership growth, and a talented team that demonstrated exceptional skill, resilience and capability to lead through challenging times,” he wrote.
“I simply wouldn’t leave the LPGA if I thought the future was uncertain or not trending straight up. In fact, even after the challenges we faced in 2020, the LPGA has NEVER been more financially secure, deeper in leadership talent, or more anchored by passionate, diverse sponsors from all around the world. The LPGA is poised for even greater heights; and as such, I’m excited to hand the baton to the next leader and become their biggest supporter.”
In his tenure, Whan signed a marketing deal with the PGA Tour, deputizing them to negotiate a new television contract on their behalf. He architected a purchase of the struggling Ladies European Tour and, even in the face of the global pandemic, has helped to secure another player pipeline.
So what’s next for Mike Whan?[s2If !current_user_can(access_s2member_level1)]
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Sign up here and get access to all of our members-only content.USGA CEO Mike Davis is leaving his post in 2021, with the date TBD based on identifying a successor.
While it would be great for a woman to lead the USGA, especially considering women are the fastest-growing demographic of recreational golfers, Whan’s experience in and advocacy for women’s golf would make him an ideal candidate. His work bring together the LPGA professional teachers, players and other outreach efforts into a cohesive message around empowerment, inspiration and inclusivity would be exactly what the USGA needs.