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Whan agrees to 'long-term' extension to remain LPGA commissioner

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Mike Whan doesn’t intend to leave the LPGA anytime soon.

With his contract set to expire late next year, Whan confirmed with Tuesday that he has signed a contract extension.

“It’s a long-term contract,” Whan said. “I don’t even know how long it is. I really don’t.”

LPGA president Vicki Goetze-Ackerman confirmed there’s a new deal in place.

“It’s a long-term contract,” Goetze-Ackerman said. “That’s all you’re going to get anyone to tell you. He has a vision for the future, and he wants to stay. He’s been fantastic, taking us from a dismal place in 2010 to where we are now, with a vision of an even stronger future.”

Whan is completing his 10th year as the LPGA’s leader, the longest tenure of any commissioner in tour history, surpassing the seven-year reign of Ray Volpe, who held the post from 1975 to ’82 as the LPGA’s first commissioner.

“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Whan said. “I’m really proud of the team we’ve built.”

Whan became the tour’s eighth commissioner on Jan. 4, 2010. He signed a six-year extension in 2015, with that deal due to expire after next year’s Olympics.

The tour was foundering when Whan took over, after his predecessor, Carolyn Bivens, was ousted by players who were weary of her heavy-handed tactics alienating sponsors. With the double whammy of a sour economy, Whan inherited a tour struggling with just 23 events and total prize money of $40 million.

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“We could have lost the tour, easily,” Hall of Famer Juli Inkster said.

Inkster and Helen Alfredsson were on the search committee that hired Whan.

"This hire could make or break us,” Alfredsson said. “We needed to get this right.”

Ten years into his reign, Whan has rebuilt the LPGA with a healthy, diversified foundation, with 33 events and more than $70 million in total prize money.

Whan helped the tour reimagine itself, transforming it from a tournament and dues-collecting organization into a global media property. That’s one of the foundational visions he continues to build upon. He turned what was once perceived as the tour’s biggest weakness, too many emerging Asian players with unfamiliar names, into one of tour’s greatest strengths. He built overseas business relationships and expanded TV interests while turning the LPGA into a global enterprise.

“Not only do players trust him, but sponsors trust him,” Goetze-Ackerman said. “He has built relationships on both sides of that.”

Whan is proud of the larger ambitions the LPGA pursues.

“We have such a larger umbrella that we cast over women’s golf now,” Whan said. “It was a tournament and teachers tour when I started. Now, it’s the Symetra Tour and the LPGA but we also have LPGA amateurs, with 100,000 Girls’ Golf members. I’m really proud of what we’ve done for amateurs in women’s golf.

“Whenever my tenure is over, nobody is going to remember who started the Founders Cup or International Crown. They are going to remember that there are a heck of a lot more women playing golf. In the next 20 years, you will see what’s happening in junior golf programs today happening in women’s golf. I think that’s what I’ll be most proud of when I’m sitting on a rocking chair someday.”