Whan sees LPGA expanding in 2012

By Associated PressMay 19, 2011, 12:20 am
LPGA Tour _newGLADSTONE, N.J. – After 17 months on the job, LPGA commissioner Mike Whan is well past the clueless stage.

The 46-year-old former business executive has gotten to know his players, his tournaments and his sponsors, and now he is looking to expand.

Or as he puts it, the LPGA is in a ‘GROWTH’ spurt.

That means more tournaments in 2012, a greater commitment to current sponsors, and accepting what the LPGA is: a worldwide tour that isn’t apologizing for having a lot of Asian players, playing events overseas and not having more Americans.

“What we have is a global sport that is growing around the world, where young girls all over can have this dream,” Whan said Wednesday on the eve of the Sybase Match Play Championship at the Hamilton Farm Golf Club. “I am not going to do anything but embrace it.”

Since taking over in January 2010 after Carolyn Bivens was forced out, Whan has brought a much different approach to the tour, working to combine the interests of the golfers and the people who foot the bills for the tournaments.

He went to every LPGA tournament last year to learn. He’s repeating the process this year to build.

“This is where it is happening, where your players are playing, and your sponsors are spending their money,” Whan said.

If there is a major issue on the women’s tour, it’s a lack of tournaments.

There are only 24 official events this year, and only six have been played heading into this week’s match play event that has a limited field of 64 players.

There will be an unofficial event in Brazil next week and the Solheim Cup, or 26 events overall.

It’s the No. 1 item on Whan’s to-do list.

“It’s frustrating and a little embarrassing turning on the TV on Sunday and seeing someone playing golf and it’s not us,” Whan said. “We’ve got to fix that. It’s why I came. I said to people I have been blessed with a few skills in business, and one of them wasn’t patience.

“I hear people say I like where we are headed and the transition feels good,” the former Proctor & Gamble executive said. “But like I tell my kids, sixth grade is the last grade they give you a grade for effort. Let’s not talk about our effort. Let’s get some tournaments on the board.”

Whan refused to disclose how many events were planned for 2012, admitting he didn’t want to upstage Sybase this week.

“I would be surprised if we had the same number of events in 2012 as we had in 2011,” he said. “That doesn’t mean you won’t lose an event or two. As you know there is a significant amount of international interest and what I have said to my group is that I’ll expand internationally, but only as we expand the U.S. I like our mix. I don’t want to wake up and have four tournaments in the U.S. and 44 around the world. I want to keep this as a home base.”

In looking back on his first year with the LPGA, Whan said he noticed that the tour was more worried about the business it didn’t have rather than making sure its current sponsors were satisfied.

His response was to enlist his players’ help.

Every Tuesday before an event, the players are given a customer profile that describes who is paying for the week with bullet points about the business, what it does and pictures of its key personnel.

John Chen of Sybase is focused this week and players were told things they might say with a microphone in front of them, much like NASCAR drivers do with their hats, soft drinks and automotive products.

“It’s a little thing, but I have this thing on tour where I talk about ‘GROWTH’ and each letter stands for something and the ‘T’ stands for thank you,” Whan said. “I always say when somebody hands you a check on the 18th green, especially a check that is larger than you ever thought you would make playing the game, remember you can thank whoever you want, your caddie, your dad, your coach, Jesus, but make sure you thank the person on the bottom of the check first.”

The other letters in GROWTH are just as important to Whan.

The G stands for getting involved, stepping up and doing something if there is something you don’t like about the events or things on tour.

The R is to reach out and touch the fans. Make their day.

O is for being open.

“It’s a Mike Whan warning,” he said. “I am not a status quo guy. I like to shake it up and get people talking about us again.”

The W is worldwide tour … “and get over it. It’s the LPGA’s greatest competitive advantage.”

After T is the H, or have fun.

“If you ask fans when they are having fun watching you, it’s when you are,” Whan said. “It’s when you are nervous on the first tee, when you high-five your caddie or tear up thinking about the people who got you here. Be yourself.”

Looking forward, Whan is a hopeful. He believes the economy is improving and his tour has something to offer sponsors.

“I think if we were a 30-tournament tour we would be delivering great fields at every event,” he said. “Can we get from 25 to 30 in one year? I don’t know, but like I said, patience is not my strong suit. So if we went from 25 to 27 next year, it would be a nice direction, but I would be frustrated. At the same time playing 35 is doable, but you might also be apologizing for some fields. I think somewhere between 30 and 35 is a sweet spot.”
Getty Images

Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of {Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

Getty Images

D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

Getty Images

Club pro part of 6-way tie atop Sr. PGA

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:04 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Nevada club professional Stuart Smith shot a 5-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship.

Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.

One of 41 club pros in the field at Harbor Shores for the senior major, Smith is the director of golf at Somersett Country Club in Reno.


Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship


McCarron won the Senior Players Championship last year for his first senior major.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer is skipping the event to attend son Jason's high school graduation, and Steve Stricker is playing the PGA Tour event in Texas.