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 GolfChannel.com 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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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.

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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.''

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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.