The future of the LPGA will find its shape in Houston


LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan isn’t the only piece of the future leadership puzzle coming together this fall.

At the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship at Houston in just two weeks, LPGA members will decide who among them will work closest with Whan to help rebuild the tour.

What’s going to happen outside the ropes in Houston may be even more important than what happens inside.

Michelle Ellis said Wednesday that she will seek a second term as LPGA president. Seven player directors will decide her fate in a vote before the Tour Championship. First, though, the LPGA membership as a whole must choose who will serve on the board of directors. Juli Inkster and Christina Kim, two dynamic leaders with strong voices, will see their terms expire this month, though Kim is going to be presented for a new term. Once the membership votes on the board, the player directors will pick their president.

The week will also mark the first time Whan meets the membership in a players meeting. Plus, the 2010 schedule will be released. It's a big deal with so much player angst surrounding the rebuilding of the schedule. Players are especially eager to hear what the future of the LPGA Championship will hold, where it will be played next year and who's going to be the title sponsor. When acting commissioner Marty Evans took over in July, just 13 tournaments were under contract for next year. Eighteen have been announced so far with the tour projecting that 22 to 25 will be on the schedule. There were 34 events on last year's schedule, 27 on this year's.
“Given the circumstances, the economy, I think everyone’s happy and proud we’ve been able to pull that many tournaments together,” Ellis said. “It’s a great stepping stone for us to become bigger, better and stronger.”
Ellis wants to be part of that building. She presided over one of the most critical transitions in the history of the tour with a player revolt forcing out Carolyn Bivens as commissioner this summer. Ellis did so while dealing with personal heartache that tested her on mutliple levels. Ellis spent most of the summer in her native Australia helping her family tend to her ailing father, who died of cancer at the start of September. Her game suffered as she steered the tour's board through its leadership transition and her father's illness. The eight-year veteran endured her worst year on tour, failing to make a single cut in 13 LPGA starts. LPGA vice president Sherri Steinhauer termed Ellis' dedication to the tour 'absolutely amazing' given the hardships she faced this past year. Steinhauer said Ellis sacrificed her game for the tour's greater good.
'I've learned a lot, we've all learned a lot this year,' Ellis said. 'It's been a bit of a roller coaster, but all we can do is take what we've learned and try to make ourselves better.'