by Jeff Skinner
While we all battle a snowstorm in the Northeast the women of the LPGA Tour will get their 2014 season off to a warm and rousing start in paradise, Paradise Island in the Bahamas that is.
World number three Stacy Lewis leads the field that includes 16 year old phenom Lydia Ko (4) and Lexi Thompson (9) at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic. Ko is making her debut as a member of the LPGA and is one of the reasons that the 2014 LPGA season could be a very special one.
A mere three years ago the LPGA was struggling to survive. Embattled commissioner Carolyn Bivens had just about destroyed the LPGA with her heavy handed style that had sponsors fleeing and tournaments disappearing. It took a mutiny from the players to finally oust Bivens but severe damage had been done to the LPGA Tour.
Enter newly minted commissioner Michael Whan. He had a varied background in sports, sales, marketing and had a CEO credit on his resume and his being named commissioner left him the difficult, uphill task of rebuilding the tour.
Doing whatever it took, Whan has transformed the LPGA from a sports entity on the brink of extinction into a very viable and more importantly, sellable, brand. Whan is the hardest working and probably the most effective commissioner in sports.
While NFL commissioner Roger Goodell operates the behemoth that is the NFL, Bud Selig battles Alex Rodriguez, David Stern balances salary caps and Gary Bettman suspends players and coaches alike Whan gets things done and makes a difference.
Where PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem operates from a huge position of strength with the most popular golfers in the world, Whan has to work miracles to get his girls a mere pittance of the corporate dollars the PGA Tour has thrown at it.
His hard work during the past three years has resulted in a rebirth of the LPGA and 2014’s enhanced season is proof that Whan was a great choice by the LPGA.
The 2014 season has blossomed into 32 official events when there were just 23 in 2011. Whan has added a new points system that culminates with a million dollar payout at the CME Group Tour Championship to the season ending leader. That is on top of a $500,000 winner’s paycheck. And the LPGA has put together an unofficial team event, the International Crown that will feature eight countries in a match play event that could rival the Olympics.
From the disaster that Bivens left, Whan has fashioned a very viable, exciting golf tour. With skilled, young, popular and very sellable players like Ko, Thompson, Creamer and Lewis the LPGA looks to be in good hands. Michael Whan’s hands have fixed the LPGA…and he’s not done yet.