by Jeff Skinner
When Mike Whan took over as commissioner of the LPGA Tour to say the task he faced was monumental was an understatement. The LPGA had just suffered through the reign of Carolyn Bivens who has to go down in history as the single worst commissioner of any sport. The economy tanked and sponsors fed up with Bivens’ heavy handedness were jumping ship. The LPGA was in dire shape.
Mike Whan isn’t a magician but what he has done during his tenure is downright amazing. He stopped he disappearing act that was the LPGA Tour. In 2011 the LPGA was only able to stage 23 tournaments the fewest on tour in nearly 40 years.
This season Whan has worked his magic and there are 27 tournaments slated for the LPGA. New to the 2012 season are the IPS Handa Australian Women’s Open, The LPGA LOTTE Championship in Hawaii, the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in Ontario and the Kingsmill Championship at The Kingsmill Resort in Virginia and the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic returns after being absent last year.
Combine those five tournaments with the fact that The RR Donnelley Founders Cup will now be paying a real purse and that means there are six new paychecks for the ladies this season. That’s an additional $7 million in purse money. If that isn’t progress I don’t know what is.
The schedule includes stops in Asia, Europe, Australia, and Mexico in addition to the fifteen in the U.S. The return to Kingsmill and the reappearance of The Jamie Farr is a welcome sight for the players. “Going back to Kingsmill, to Jamie Farr, getting those LPGA staples back on the schedule, that’s what we need to do,” said Stacy Lewis. “I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
“It feels like momentum is going in the right direction,” Juli Inkster said. “I see things going forward now instead of backwards. And it’s great that we’re adding American events. I know we are a global tour, but I think it’s important with a U.S. fan base that we add domestic tournaments.”
The LPGA has hit a home run with Mike Whan as commissioner. From his handling of the Lexi Thompson exemption to his week by week rebuilding of the tour he has done just about everything right. Whan is the right man for the LPGA and he has accomplished so much in his first two years. The LPGA is in good, skillful hands.