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Some good news for the LPGA Tour. It has a new commissioner. Depending on your view of the situation, some might consider Mike Whan got the short end of the stick. He has the job. The LPGA, which in its own right produces a very viable product but often gets overlooked due to the large shadow cast by Tiger Woods and the rest of the boys who tee it up each week on the PGA Tour. The challenges are plentiful, even before the economy cratered. But someone has to do it and Whan decided to give it a try.
Leslie Greis, who served as the chair of the search committee, stated, “When we assembled the search committee in July, we knew we faced a daunting but important task. The hiring of a commissioner is one of the most important responsibilities that a board has, but it's not an easy responsibility to carry out. Our job was made even harder by the current economic landscape, the very public profile of this search, and the position of our organization within the world of sports.” According to the search criteria the committee created it was looking for a candidate with substantial business leadership experience in golf or a sports company, a proven track record in building brands on a global scale. It was also important that the person have a demonstrated ability to build consensus across borders and in a high profile environment. That one can’t be overlooked as managing in excess of 100 women, some who speak limited English, it will come in handy. Also the committee said it wanted the ideal candidate to have a passion for and an understanding of golf and the relationships within the golf industry.
“I was that crazy high school kid cutting greens at 5:30 in the morning so he could play free golf in the afternoon and caddying on Sundays, and I was the guy who decided to make golf a career move, as well, back in my early 30s and on through my career,” said Mike Whan who is the next LPGA Commissioner. “Golf is special to me. It's been special to me my whole life.”
Whan has a big job in front of him given the economy and sponsorship dollars no longer can be considered low hanging fruit as his top two challenges in taking over the hot seat as Commish. “With regard to the leadership and the job, I have a personal philosophy about leadership that maybe not everybody understands, so I'll just say it this simply,” he said. “I believe in listen, learn and lead, and you do it in that order. You've got to listen so that you can learn, and once you've listened and learned, you're prepared to lead. So I tend to believe that my first few months in the position is going to be with pretty large ears and pretty small mouth because I've got more to learn than I've got to offer and beyond, but I can't wait to jump in.”
While the task may be daunting, Whan already has one fan. Helen Alfredsson, captain of the recent European Solheim Cup team and a member of the LPGA board of directors, who also served as one of two player members on the search committee gave her vote of confidence in the selection.
“We have three H's that I call humor, honesty and heart, and it's funny because Mike really fit in all of those categories, and then when you read his bio and how successful he's been, especially in even small businesses, which is similar to the LPGA, it seemed to clear to me from the very beginning when I first met Mike that he would be such a great commissioner for us,” she continued. “His honesty and integrity was big, big things, too. There was always the truth; he didn't try to tell the right things to be in there, he just said what he felt, and that's something that clearly left a very big thing with us and how he presented himself.”
Its likely a safe bet, Whan will need to lean on his sense of humor from time to time if he is to be successful at navigating the LPGA Tour to higher ground during his tenure.