Skip to main content

A Commissioner That Really Has Made A Difference

I have been a big LPGA fan for a very long time. The first LPGA tournament I ever attended was back in 1974, and I remember following Jan Stephenson for 36 holes. The LPGA was quite popular back then, and would become even more popular in 1978 when a rookie named Nancy Lopez came onto the scene. Nancy would go on to win the Rookie of the Year, Vare Trophy, and Player of the Year in the same season. Nancy was making headlines and the LPGA was thriving. In the decades to come the game would still remain popular with players such as Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, and Se Ri Pak bringing new fans to the game.

Unfortunately, things started changing for the worse as we entered the 21st century.
  • The nation's dreadful economy led to sponsors not having the funds to support the LPGA.
  • The LPGA's failure to take the current economic conditions into consideration when negotiating contract renewals. Several long term sponsors would not be returning in the year 2010 amidst complaints from tournament directors that the commissioner's management style and approach was counterproductive.
  • Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ocho retiring, certainly did not help matters.
Entering the 2010 season, the sport I loved so much seemed all but dead. The only thing you heard about the LPGA at that point was the term "sinking ship." The LPGA was on life support. It was going to take a miracle to turn it around.

Enter Commissioner Michael Whan

On October 28, 2009 the LPGA announced the hiring of Mr. Michael Whan. He would take office on January 4, 2010. The announcement didn't really make any big headlines in the newspapers. Unless you were a big LPGA fan you probably didn't even read about it. I was skeptical, who was this man?
I never heard of him. I decided to do some research and this is what I found.
  • He was 44 years old, and he and his wife, Meg, and their three children made their residence in Lake Mary, Fl.
  • He was a 1987 graduate of Miami (Ohio), University.
  • He was the Executive VP/General Manager of North America TaylorMade Adidas Golf, from 1995-2000.
  • His most recent job was President/CEO of something called Mission-Itec Hockey.
I have to admit that I was still skeptical at this point. Sure, he had an impressive resume, but was he qualified to take over the job of the sport that I loved so much? More importantly, was he capable of turning around a sinking ship, and doing it quickly?

Let's Skip ahead to 2014.

The commissioner has now been on the job for 4 years. I said earlier that the LPGA needed a miracle. In my opinion they got one, his name was Michael Whan.

His methods haven't always been orthodox. He was criticized when he added the RR Donnelly Founders Cup a couple of years back. Many were critical that the girls had to play for charity with no prize money. Well that is now a full field event with a $1.5 million purse.

Many laughed at the way a player qualified for the season ending Titleholders Championship.
It sure wasn't perfect, we all know that, but it added a tournament to the schedule and look what it has become now.

There was even some criticism (and there still is now), about adding a 5th major championship.
The jury is still out on that one, but isn't it better to have 5 then to lose a sponsor and have only 3?

I like a commissioner that "thinks outside the box", and we sure have one in Mr. Whan.

Let's take a look at some of his accomplishments over the past 4 years.
  • There were 23 tournaments in 2010, there are 32 now.
  • There were 14 tournaments in North America in 2010, there are 21 now.
  • There are now 9 tournaments in Asia.
  • The International Crown has been added to the schedule as an unofficial tournament, giving players from all countries a chance to compete in a Solheim Cup type event.
  • The total purse has increased from $40.5 million in 2011 to $56.3 million.
  • TV ratings are up dramatically. There will be a record 350 + hours of coverage in 2014, with 32 tournaments televised.
  • Has added the "Race to the CME Globe", a FedEx Cup type race with a one million dollar first prize.
As most of my readers know, my wife and I go to many of these tournaments every year. In fact, we have attended approximately 30 tournaments in the last 5 years.
During this time we have made friends with many of the players. I can honestly say that I have never heard any player criticize the job that the commissioner is doing. The long worried faces we had observed 4 and 5 years ago have been replaced with smiles of hope. Those smiles are contagious and make for a much more fan friendly environment.
 


The commissioner has also exceled in hiring his staff. Everyone that I have come in contact with (in person, by phone, or e-mail), has always been 100% cooperative. I am not Ron Sirak or Beth Ann Baldry Nichols (the two best golf writers on the planet), but they always find the time to get back to me and answer any questions I might have. Having a staff that includes the likes of Heather Daly Donofrio, Jack Sumnar, Kelly Theiser, Meghan Flanagan, and Stacy Shanks has sure made it easier for me to write this blog accurately. Promoting the LPGA has always been my one and only goal here.
 
There are a still a few things I hope to see in the future. They include:
  • Eight weeks between seasons is still a bit too long (although it is better than the 12 week wait last year), I would like it cut to six. Adding another Florida tournament in November and another warm weather tournament in January would be great.
  • Thirty-five tournaments is the number I am looking for. Three more on American soil, would be preferable.
  • One match play tournament, similar to the dearly departed Sybase Championship, would make a nice addition.
  • Media coverage in the local newspapers outside of where the tournament is being held, is almost non-existent. Living in the New York area, I read the New York Daily News and New York Post, two of the papers with the largest circulation in the country. On Monday morning I have to read 4 columns of a PGA story, 2 columns of a Seniors Tours results story, and a column of a Men's European Tour story to get to a six line story on the LPGA. That is if there is one there at all. I am not sure what has to be done here to improve this situation, but bigger headlines will generate larger attendance and produce even higher TV ratings.
The commissioner has stated, “This is by no means a finished product. But it’s an enjoyable journey right now for our players and our partners and we’re going to continue pushing toward something in which the LPGA’s Founders and LPGA fans can be proud.  We’re excited about where we are, but even more excited about where we’re going!”

I am excited also. I am excited for the upcoming 2014 season. I am excited about the future of the LPGA. I am mostly excited about what Mr. Whan has in store for us next.

Other Tidbits:
Both of Jessica Korda's LPGA victories have come on the opening tournament of the season.
Stacy Lewis has 11 consecutive top 10 finishes dating back to last season.
Thailand has now passed Spain and moved into 4th place in the International Crown Standings.

Rolex Rankings Movers of the Week:
Jessica Korda Leaps from #40 to #24, while Lizette Salas Moves from #20 to #17.





Comments

  1. Couldn't agree more. Mike Whan, and his team, as he is always quick to mention, have done an amazing job over the past four years.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, Tony, things are certainly looking up. One thing that might be interesting is a yearly series of tournaments similar to the World Golf Championships, combining the LPGA with the LET tours. More coverage of the Symetra Tour would also be nice.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

LPGA Player Profile - Natalie Gulbis

With the LPGA taking a one week break before resuming its schedule in the state of Texas, I want to take this opportunity to do my fifth player profile.

The player I have chosen this time around, may very well be in the twilight of her career, but has been a crowd favorite for many years. I have chosen:

NATALIE GULBIS


Born: 1/7/83 (34 years old)
Hometown: Sacramento Calif.
Resides: Lake, Las Vegas, Nev.
Rookie Year: 2002



Natalie has won once on the LPGA tour:

2007 Evian Masters

 Natalie has had many of her best finishes in Major Championships!

Best Finishes in Major Championships:

ANA Inspiration - Finished 3rd in 2006KPMG Women's PGA Championship - Finished 5th in 2005U.S. Women's Open - Finished 4th in 2005Ricoh British Open - Finished 9th in 2013The Evian Championship - Finished 52nd in 2013 (It was not a Major Championship when she won this event).

Career Stats:

318 career starts237 cuts made (74.5%)37 top tens (11.6%)Has $4,892,233 in career earnings through the 2016 season (57…

LPGA Reshuffles 2018 Priority List

The LPGA had its first reshuffle of its Priority List this week. While most of the players moved up or down a few insignificant spots, there were some very significant moves also.

The Priority List is what is used to fill the required amount of spots for any given tournament. Without me getting into the categories, which is potentially confusing, here is a brief explanation. Most full field events have a field of 144 players. Usually 140 of the players come from the Priority List ranking. Two players are Monday qualifiers, and 2 more are sponsor exemptions. So to keep it simple, if your Priority Rating is #150, you have to hope that 10 players decide not to play, or you are probably not getting into the field.


The following players made some of the biggest jumps in this week's reshuffle (and by getting into the top 100 become part of my weekly field rating):
Bronte Law - 108 to 86
Amy Olson - 112 to 88
Nasa Hataoka - 116 to 92
Caroline Inglis - 126 to 93
Hee Young Park - 106 to 94
Mariajo…

Most Popular Photos of the Year - 2017

1/9/18 - Bonus pics added at bottom of this page!


As many of my readers know, my wife and I go to quite a few LPGA tournaments each year. Since 2010 we have gone to over 50 events, including two in Scotland (St. Andrews being our favorite), and the last 8 Canadian Opens.

I do all the writing on here (my wife who is a teacher, is my proofreader), while my wife Cindy does most of the picture taking. Neither of us are professional photographers, but once in a while we get lucky and capture a moment that is very popular with my viewers.

Below I have reposted the most popular photos of 2017. I based this on the number of website hits, and the number of comments each photo received. Some came as quite a surprise to me, as when they were taken I was not expecting such a reaction.

#18
#17
#16
#15
#14
#13
#12
#11
#10
#9

LPGA Qualifying Tournament 2018 Final Stage - The Q-Series

The final stage of the LPGA qualifying tournament, the Q-Series, will begin this week.
A field of 102 players will be teeing it up.

At the 2017 CME Group Tour Championship, the LPGA first announced that Q-Series will replace LPGA Qualifying School Final Stage, which was previously held annually in Daytona Beach, Florida. 

Instead of 90 holes like the old Final Stage, the new Q-Series will be 144 holes. Players will compete in two, four-day tournaments with cumulative scores over the eight rounds for a $150,000 purse, which will be distributed at the end of the eight rounds.

The LPGA will debut the new Q-Series at the historic Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, North Carolina, which has hosted several prestigious tournaments including the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open. 
The first week of the LPGA Q-Series presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina will be played on the George and Tom Fazio-designed Pinehurst Course No. 6 from Oct. 24-27, while the Q-Series will conclude on the Rees Jon…

U.S. Women's Open Preview, Pairings, and More

Before I get started on this week's tournament, let me give a big congratulations to Minjee Lee for winning the LPGA Volvik Championship. Minjee's final round -4 under par 68, was good enough to win by one stroke over runner-up In Kyung Kim.


This week the LPGA travels to the state of Alabama for the playing of the U.S. Women's Open Conducted by the USGA. This is the second Major Championship of the 2018 season.

Sung Hyun Park will be trying to successfully defend the title she won last year at Trump National Golf Club by two strokes over Hye Jin Choi.



This will be tournament #14 of 33 on this year's LPGA schedule. It is also the 2nd of five Major Championships to be held this year.

Course:  Shoal Creek
Location:  Shoal Creek, Alabama
Defending Champion:  Sung Hyun Park
Winning Score:  73-70-67-67 = 277 (-11)

Final Field:  156 players
Cut: Top 60 and ties
Par:  36/36 = 72
Yardage:  6,732
Purse:  $5,000,000



My strength of field rating is a mighty 87% (down from 91% last year). The re…

118th U.S. Women's Amateur Championship Preview

The LPGA is taking a one week break this week before resuming their schedule in Indianapolis.

I would like to take this time to preview a very important USGA event that is taking place this week.

The 118th U.S. Women's Amateur Championship

Many of my readers may remember last year's championship when University of Texas senior Sophia Schubert, 21, of Oak Ridge, Tenn., became the first player over the age of 19 to win the championship in nine years with her 6-and-5 victory over Stanford sophomore Albane Valenzuela, of Switzerland, at San Diego Country Club in Chula Vista, Calif.

Here are the Key Details:
Championship Venue:  Golf Club of Tennessee
Location:  Kingston Springs, Tenn.
Architect:  Tom Fazio
Par:  71
Yardage: 6,275


Dates of Championship:  August 6-12
Field:  156 players
Eligibility: Any female amateur whose handicap index does not exceed 5.4
Defending Champion: Sophia Schubert
Winning Margin: 6 and 5 over runner-up Albane Valenzuela

Championship Field
A starting field o…

Breaking News: Lexi Thompson Withdraws From Ricoh Women's British Open

Lexi Thompson announced today via Instagram that she has withdrawn from the Ricoh Women's British Open. She released the following statement:

Hi everyone, I wanted to let you know that I am officially withdrawing from the 2018 Ricoh Women's British Open.  It is extremely difficult for me not to play in this prestigious Major, but I realized recently that I need to take some time to work on myself. The events of the past year and a half (on and off the golf course) have taken a tremendous toll on me both mentally and emotionally. I have not truly felt like myself for quite some time. I am therefore taking this time to recharge my mental batteries, and to focus on myself away from the game of professional golf.  Thank all so much for your continued support. I hope to see everyone soon as I plan to defend my title at the 2018 Indy Women in Tech Championship. Lexi
It has been a tough past couple of years for Lexi. She lost the 2017 ANA Inspiration in a playoff when she was given a 4 s…