Whan and the South Korean question


It’s noteworthy that the LPGA introduced its new commissioner with most of its tour players in South Korea for the Hana Bank-Kolon Championship.

As the LPGA’s new leader, Michael Whan’s first order of business has to be securing playing opportunities with the tour projecting it could feature as few as 22 tournaments next year, the fewest since 1971. The total prize money could dip below $40 million, down from the $64 million cited in the tour’s media guide as the total prize money played for last year. At most the tour is projecting 25 events next year, down from 34 last year.

Another large issue Whan must tackle is South Korea’s growing dominance in the women’s game. There’s a troubling disconnect between South Korean success on tour and English speaking fans. That country’s gifted contingent is a large factor in every event, but English speaking fans aren’t connecting enough to the personalities or their stories.

South Koreans have won nine times this LPGA season, more than any other nation, more than twice the number of events Americans have won. One of Whan's challenges is figuring out a way to make that work better for the tour. It’s a job for a superstar marketing leader. As his predecessor, Carolyn Bivens, learned, he has to be careful how he goes about it.