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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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm