LPGA actively seeking an interim commissioner

By Randall MellJuly 12, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 U.S. WomenBETHLEHEM, Pa. ' The LPGAs Board of Directors is actively seeking an interim commissioner from outside the organization to run its tour while the board launches a more thorough search for a successor to Carolyn Bivens, a tour player director said Sunday at the U.S. Womens Open.
 
Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, one of seven player directors on the LPGA Board, said after her final round at Saucon Valley Country Club that she expects a separation with Bivens to be completed quickly.
 
I think it will be resolved probably this week, and we will move on, Inkster said.
 
Inkster said a search will be conducted for an interim leader to allow the tour to find the best person to serve as the tours commissioner.
 
Right now, we want to take our time and find the right person to fill this job, and you cant do that on a whim, Inkster said. We are right in the middle of the season, and we are looking for someone until we get a new commissioner, for four or five months, or maybe three months, just to right the ship, get us going right down the river, straight ahead. Thats what we are looking for.
 
Bivens was forced out by key tour players. Her fate was sealed after 15 LPGA members met at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic in Toledo last week and drafted a letter asking for Bivens resignation. Lorena Ochoa, Cristie Kerr, Suzann Pettersen, Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer were among those who expressed disappointment in a wave of title sponsorship losses, citing their belief that a struggling economy wasnt solely to blame and that Bivens inflexible business model also was a factor.
 
I think Carolyns done a lot of great things for our tour, and I think she worked her butt off, but some of the things she tried just didnt work, Inkster said. Whether its her fault or not, it just wasnt working.
 
Bivens, who succeeded Ty Votaw as commissioner in the fall of 2005, called her bold new business plan Vision 2010. She set out to make the tour more financially stable and to build pension and health plans. Initially, as part of that plan, she increased the tournament sanctioning fees the LPGA was asking from $15,000 to $100,000 and increased tournaments fees for television production costs. That didnt go over well with the tournaments asked to foot the bill.
 
Bivens bold strokes also included negotiating television agreements with Golf Channel and J Golf, a South Korean network.
 
Under Bivens, the LPGA took ownership of the McDonalds LPGA Championship and the ADT Championship, though those moves didnt come without controversy with the tour losing McDonalds and ADT as sponsors.
 
Eight title sponsors from last years schedule wont be back next year, all of them United States based tournaments, making the schedule more international.
 
We are a global tour, and Id really like to see us get back to playing more domestic tournaments in the United States and then going overseas, Inkster said.
 
Inkster said she has been on conference calls with fellow board members six of the last seven nights working on the issues.
 
Inkster said the tour needs its next leader focused on relationships.
 
Any good organization, any big company, you have relationships, and you build on those relationships, and thats where weve been struggling, she said.
 
Inkster said Bivens deserves credit for helping build a good foundation.
 
I think Carolyn got a bum rap by being a woman in a mans world, Inkster said. Golf, even though you think its a really big community, its a small community. She went in there saying this is the way its going to be, instead of a softer approach. I think she never got the respect back, and that really hurt, but you know what? Shes done a lot of great things for our tour, and she has given us a lot of confidence in what we have out here, and we are not going back. We are going to keep moving forward, and we hope these tournaments will move forward with us. If they dont, we will move on.
 
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