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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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.