Daunting challenges ahead for LPGA commissioner Whan

By Randall MellOctober 29, 2009, 1:40 am

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The Scots know how to endure the trials and tribulations the ancient game presents.

They love the game they invented so much they eagerly play through the frigid torment their rugged weather often brings.

So maybe Michael P. Whan was born for the daunting challenges that lie ahead as the LPGA’s new commissioner.

Whan has Scottish blood coursing through his veins. That’s among the many things we learned today about the man whose introduction Wednesday as the association’s eighth commissioner caught so many golf observers by surprise. He’s somewhat of a mystery man to most golf fans though he has strong ties to the game beyond his heritage. Whan’s Scottish ancestors actually went by the name MacWhan.

“We lost the Mac somewhere along the line,” Whan, 44, said in his introductory news conference at Madison Square Garden .

We’ve also learned something odd about the LPGA’s newest leader. He was unemployed when the LPGA finalized his hiring this week. That sounds a lot worse than it is. The fact that he has spent most of the past year working as a consultant is a testament to the work he did in his last position as the chief executive officer at Mission Itech Hockey, where he transformed the smallish hockey equipment company into a property so valued it became the darling of larger companies. Mission Itech Hockey has been bought and sold twice in the last year.


Ray Volpe (July 1975 – March 1982)

John Laupheimer (April 1982 – Nov. 1988)

Bill Blue (Dec. 1988 – Sept. 1990)

Charile Mechem (Nov. 1990 – Dec. 1995)

Jim Ritts (Jan. 1996 – March 1999)

Ty Votaw (March 1999 – Sept. 2005)

Carolyn Bivens (Sept. 2005 – July 2009)

Marty Evans* (July 2009 – Jan. 2010)

Michael Whan (Jan. 2010 – ?)

(*Acting commissioner)

“I think Mike’s a really good selection as LPGA commissioner,” said Mark King, chief executive officer of TaylorMade Golf. “The reasons are that he’s very, very smart. He’s very aggressive, and he’s a world-class marketer.”

King should know. Whan worked under him at TaylorMade in the late ‘90s. Whan worked his way up to executive vice president/general manager of TaylorMade North America, but King said Whan impressed him long before he even arrived at TaylorMade. Whan grew up in Chicago, but his family moved to Cincinnati before his freshman year of high school. After graduating from Miami of Ohio, he went to work for Procter & Gamble, where he was a rising star in the brand and marketing departments.

“Mike ran the company’s Crest brand at a young age,” King said. “That’s a diamond brand. If you run Procter & Gamble’s Crest brand, you are a superstar.

“When Mike came here, I saw his passion and desire to succeed. I’m a big fan of his. I think he’ll do really well. He’s a forward thinker. He will look at the model the LPGA has today, and he’ll look at how it will be most relevant to sponsors. He’s got a fertile and creative marketing mind. He’ll find a way sponsors can be benefited most by the LPGA. I don’t think he’ll be a salesman. He’ll approach them as a partner in looking at how they can build their brands together. I think that’s what it will take.”

Whan left Procter & Gamble to get into the golf business, joining Wilson Sporting Goods as a vice president and general manger of its golf ball and glove business while also managing the marketing department and overseeing research and development. He went to TaylorMade from there. Whan’s future with the LPGA, however, may have been sealed outside the golf business.

Whan’s success at Mission Itech Hockey from 2002 through late last year serves as almost a model for what LPGA officials would like him to do with their tour.

Mission Hockey was a small hockey equipment company in California specializing in roller and ice hockey when Whan took over as CEO. He merged it with Itech, a Canadian hockey equipment company.

“Mission Hockey was a startup company that blew up with the explosion of roller hockey,” said Sean Riley, the brand manager at Mission Itech Hockey. “It had legs, great products, but it was a mess when Mike Whan got here. He was able to step in after multiple failures and turn it into a profitable business. He got the spending under control and put the structure in place to give it the ability to succeed.

“We were a very innovative company, pushing technology. We had some edgy marketing and tried some outlandish things.”

Riley said Whan’s gift is his ability to bring talent together, to get different entities to share a common goal and vision.

“He’s no micromanager,” Riley said. “He saw what we wanted to do, harnessed that and turned us loose. He was always looking at what’s next and was never one to sit on his hands. He was always looking at how to build the empire.”

King said LPGA staff can expect Whan to lead with a high-energy style.

“Mike defines high energy,” King said. “I’ve never met anybody who has more energy than Mike.”

If Whan has a grand plan, he isn’t sharing it yet. In fact, he says he will be doing a lot of studying before he assumes his new duties on Jan. 4.

“I have a personal philosophy about leadership that maybe not everybody understands,” Whan 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 are 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.”

Whan is jumping in right away. He left his introductory news conference in New York Wednesday to fly to San Diego, where he will attend the LPGA’s Tournament Owners Association meetings.

There is lots of work to do there with the LPGA schedule expected to feature less than 25 tournaments next year, down from 34 last year.

“I've never been one that looks at words like issues or challenges or problems as bad words,” Whan said. “What they represent is tremendous upside potential. I can't wait to get started, not just because of the upside potential, not because of the base we've already built, but where we can really take the LPGA in the years to come.”

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Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.

Full-field scores from the Joburg Open

Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm
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Sharma among three Open qualifiers at Joburg Open

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:16 pm

Shubhankar Sharma earned his first career European Tour win at the rain-delayed Joburg Open and punched his ticket to The Open in the process.

Sharma returned to Randpark Golf Club Monday morning after storms washed out much of the scheduled final day of play. Beginning the re-start with a four-shot lead, he hung on to win by three over South Africa's Erik Van Rooyen.

Both men can make travel plans for Carnoustie next summer, as this was the second event in the Open Qualifying Series with three spots available for players not otherwise exempt who finished inside the top 10. The final spot went to Shaun Norris, who tied for third with Finland's Tapio Pulkkanen but had a higher world ranking (No. 192) than Pulkkanen (No. 197) entering the week.

The Joburg Open was the final official European Tour event of the year. The next tournament in the Open Qualifying Series will be the SMBC Singapore Open in January, where four spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs.

Rules changes include no more viewer call-ins

By Rex HoggardDecember 11, 2017, 12:00 pm

Although the Rules of Golf modernization is still a year away, officials continue to refine parts of the rulebook including an overhaul of the video review protocols.

A “working group” led by the USGA and R&A announced on Monday the new protocols, which include assigning a rule official to a tournament broadcast to resolve rules issues.

The group – which includes the PGA Tour, European Tour, LPGA tour and PGA of America – also voted to stop considering viewer call-ins when processing potential rule violations.

In addition, a new local rule was announced that will discontinue the penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard when the player was unaware of the violation.

In April, Lexi Thompson was penalized four strokes during the final round when officials at the ANA Inspiration learned via e-mail from a viewer of an infraction that occurred during the third round. Thompson was penalized two strokes for incorrectly marking her golf ball and two for signing an incorrect scorecard.

“The message is, as a fan, enjoy watching the game and the best players in the world, but also have the confidence that the committee in charge of the competition have the rules handled,” Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of the Rules of Golf, said on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" on Monday. “Let’s leave the rules and the administration of the event to the players and to those responsible for running the tournament.”

The working group was created in April to review the use of video in applying the rules and the role of viewer call-ins, and initially issued a decision to limit the use of video through the introduction of the “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standard.

According to that decision, which was not a rule, “so long as the player does what can reasonably be expected under the circumstances to make an accurate determination, the player’s reasonable judgment will be accepted, even if later shown to be inaccurate by the use of video evidence.”

The new protocols will be implemented starting on Jan. 1.

A comprehensive overhaul of the Rules of Golf is currently underway by the USGA and R&A that will begin on Jan. 1, 2019.