Work in Progress

By Randall MellFebruary 4, 2010, 4:26 am

When Michael Whan was named the LPGA’s new commissioner, he said his initiation would be all about listening and learning.

Thirty days into the job, he revealed he has enlisted a team of highly regarded teachers to guide his continuing education.

Whan told that he has hand picked four confidants to serve as his advisory council as he rebuilds the tour.

Hall of Famers Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam, former LPGA commissioner Charlie Mechem and former J.C. Penny CEO W.R. Howell are lending their expertise to the commissioner’s cause.

Whan makes it clear they aren’t in place for show, or because their names look good on paper. The commissioner’s actively engaging them with the LPGA season only two weeks away.

“I’ll call Charlie Mechem every three to four days,” Whan said. “Every time I get on the phone with him, I have 20 notes when I get off, and I love them. He’s full of good thoughts, and, most importantly, he has a good heart. He’s really there for the LPGA and personally I feel like he’s there for me.”


Michael Whan
LPGA commissioner Michael Whan has enlisted some big names. (Getty Images)

Mechem served as the LPGA commissioner from 1991 to ’95.

Lopez is seventh on the LPGA career victory list with 48 titles, six of them majors.

Sorenstam is third in career LPGA victories with 72, 10 of them majors.

Howell headed J.C. Penney from 1983 to ’97 and sits on the board of directors of numerous major corporations, including ExxonMobil, Deutsche Bank Trust and Warner-Lampert.

“When Mike was hired, I called to let him know I was there for him and the LPGA,” Lopez said. “I have a passion for the LPGA. It’s my other family, and I like Mike. I watched him speak at the PGA Merchandise Show, and he brings a different feeling to a room. He’s very personable and approachable, and you need that. You want corporate sponsors welcoming him, not dreading their meetings with him. He’s very positive.”

Whan said Lopez may play an integral role in the wooing of a future sponsor, a deal he wouldn’t detail but hopes leads to an announcement soon.

Mechem has quickly become more than an adviser to Whan.

“He’s a mentor,” Whan said. “I told him I’m not sure you want to mentor me, but I’m not leaving you alone.”

Whan and Mechem share Cincinnati connections. Whan’s mother, Karen, worked as a legal secretary there for the law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister. Mechem worked at the same firm before he became the LPGA’s fourth commissioner, succeeding William Blue. Whan wasn’t aware of the connection until he was deep in the interview process with the LPGA and they began speaking.

When it became clear the LPGA’s search was focusing on Whan, Mechem offered a crucial piece of advice that would lead to Whan accepting the job offer. Whan has a golf background, having worked his way up to executive vice president/general manager of TaylorMade North America in the late ‘90s, but he left golf and would eventually become CEO of Mission Itech Hockey. He wasn’t sure his family was ready for him to make the move to LPGA commissioner.

“I was going through the exercise of whether a 44-year-old guy with three kids could do this job and still be the kind of father you want to be,” Whan said. “Charlie talked to me like my father and mother would, and he helped me think it through. I asked him if you could do the commissioner’s job appropriately, spend the time in the field, spend the time with all the constituents, can you do that and raise a family at the same time? Or am I 10 years away from this job, when my kids are in college?”

Mechem assured Whan he could do both while being a terrific example to his children in showing them the right way to pursue their life’s passions.

“I’m impressed with Mike, and I think he’s going to do a wonderful job as commissioner,” Mechem said. “The tour was an important part of my life and continues to be, and anything I can do to help him, with my background and the friends I still have in golf, I’m glad to do.”

Mechem’s connections led to Howell’s joining Whan’s advisory council. Mechem introduced Whan to Howell two months ago. The relationship Whan’s forging with Howell says a lot about Whan’s focus as he begins his new job.

“Almost all the businesses he’s associated with today have sports interests and understand the value of sports entities on the brand,” Whan said.

Whan’s focus in his first 30 days is rebuilding the LPGA schedule and relationships with title sponsors. The LPGA schedule shrank from 34 official events in 2008 to 24 this year. The announcement last week that Sybase was returning and will sponsor the Match Play Championship was good news for a tour that might not be done adding to this year’s schedule.

“In simplest terms, tournaments will always be priority one,” Whan said. “The reason is that when we are playing, everyone wins. The players are winning, the sponsors are winning because we are doing something together to grow their brand and grow their businesses. The local charities and brands are winning. And, girls and women around the world are seeing the best playing. When we are not playing, none of that is happening.

“My job is to make sure we are all winning. Are there a lot of other priorities? Sure. As I’ve said to staff many times, as you’re driving home at night, if you didn’t spend 60 percent of your time on tournaments, change it tomorrow.”

Whan will spend a lot of his time on tournaments with his new advisers.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.