Whan is new LPGA commissioner

By Randall MellOctober 28, 2009, 5:55 am

Michael Whan is the LPGA’s new commissioner, GolfChannel.com has learned.

Whan, 44, a former executive vice president of TaylorMade Adidas Golf North America, was approved as the tour’s next leader in a vote of the LPGA’s Board of Directors Tuesday night, according to sources familiar with the hiring. He will be introduced in a news conference at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Whan comes to the tour from Mission-ITECH Hockey, a company makes and markets hockey gear for players on ice skates or roller blades.

Whan will officially assume his duties on Jan. 4, 2010.

Whan’s hiring comes as a surprise. His name never surfaced publicly in the interview process. He will take over for Marty Evans, who was named acting commissioner after Carolyn Bivens was forced out in a player revolt in July.

Considered perhaps the most important hire in the history of the LPGA, Whan inherits an organization faced with considerable challenges. The LPGA has announced just 18 tournaments as under contract for next year and projects having between 22 and 25 on the schedule next year. The tour hasn’t put out a schedule with fewer than 25 tournaments since 1971. There are 27 tournaments on this year’s schedule, down from 34 last year. Cumulative prize money for next year could dip to below $40 million, down from $64 million last year.

Whan served as executive vice president of TaylorMade from 1996 to 2000, leaving the position to become president of worldwide marketing for Britesmile, Inc. He was described as a “seasoned marketing executive” in Britesmile’s news release announcing his hiring. Before joining TaylorMade, Whan held various positions at Procter & Gamble between 1987 and '95, including director of marketing.

With the LPGA trying to rebuild relationships with title sponsors lost over the last two seasons, Whan will have little time to acclimate to the job. After forcing out Bivens, tour players issued a mandate to acting commissioner Evans that they wanted her to focus on seeking more playing opportunities. That mandate will carry over to Whan. His challenge will be luring back long-time title sponsors as well as attracting new ones.

The LPGA has challenges beyond the poor economic climate. With Lorena Ochoa’s play dropping off, the LPGA lacks a dominant star. With South Korea continuing to rise as the tour’s dominant force, there is a troubling disconnection with too many English speaking fans. With Americans struggling to win on the American-based tour, there’s a disconnection at home, where there are fewer and fewer domestic events on the schedule. These are among the reasons this hire was considered so critical.

The fact that the general public won't be familiar with Whan's name, or his credentials, may raise questions about who was and wasn't interested in the position. Whan, however, brings strong marketing credentials and a golf background Bivens didn't have.

Golf Central will have complete coverage of the news Wednesday at 6 p.m. and the news conference announcing Whan as commissioner will follow at 6:30 p.m.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.