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NEWS: Ladies European Tour CEO Is Out

Ivan Khodabakhsh
Ivan Khodabakhsh is out as the CEO of the Ladies European Tour, which is struggling to increase playing opportunities. (REUTERS/Russell Cheyne Livepic)

The news from the Ladies European Tour is neither better nor worse than the anyone would have anticipated. Ivan Khodabakhsh, the CEO, is leaving the organisation (or, one might speculate, has been asked to leave), and the LET board has called for its chairman, Mark Lichtenhein, to assume day-to-day management of the business. Lichtenheim will be doing as much “on an interim basis as the Board reviews its current governance structure and business strategy,” according to a statement the tour released Wednesday.

Everything has gone wrong for the LET women this year. They started with a skeletal schedule and, by the end of June, a total of five events had slipped from the original list. That was the point at which Helen Alfredsson, a past winner of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, advised all the players that it was not just tournaments which were disappearing fast; there were financial concerns.

Now there will be more financial concerns since you would have to think that those issues which had to be sorted out ahead of Wednesday’s announcement would have involved a payment for Khodabakhsh. Since he came via the world of boxing, it is unlikely that he would have joined the LET without a contract which made sense for him.

Too Many Chiefs

Since 1979, the year it was founded, the LET has had close to 20 chief executives against the three who have done duty on the men’s European Tour.

There have been some perfectly good candidates along the way but they were hardly helped by a situation in which the golfers had too much of a say. Going back a few years, there was one Joe Flanagan, who ran the Carroll’s Irish Open for many years, who would have done a sterling job had he been allowed. He had the ideas and the charm – and all he needed was someone to sweep up behind him. Alas, the women did not begin to recognise just how good he was.

Alex Armas, who came before Khodabakhsh, was another with potential. Khodabakhsh, though, was not one of the better ones. Though he talked good sense about how the women should stop putting themselves forward as good pro-am players – “It makes them sound like waitresses who are happy to run after their pro-am partners” – he had no feel for golf. You could see it from his first Solheim Cup in 2013, when he looked lost on the first tee.

Now, the time has come when the women need to accept that the business is not their forte – and that they should stick to what they know best. Choosing the right club is one thing, choosing the right CEO another.

Alternative Partnerships

Since they cannot possibly be thinking that they would be lucky enough to hit on the right CEO at the next time of asking, they should stop the guesswork and pray that Mike Whan, the CEO of the LPGA, can be persuaded to come to their aid.

Whan has talked before now of how he could see the LET as a European version of the US Symetra Tour. Of course, the purses would not be up there with those on the LPGA Tour, but at least such a circuit would provide the women with a stepping stone to the States and some decent pay cheques.

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If that does not appeal, they might be able to negotiate some kind of arrangement with the men’s European Tour. The men have given the matter some thought, with Pádraig Harrington among those players who believe such a union would be a good move not just for the women. He thinks it would be no bad thing for the men’s image.

The most worrying aspect of what has or hasn’t happened over the last few years is the extent to which a host of amateurs who had planned to begin their professional careers on the LET have had little or no chance of getting off to a fast start.

Mel Reid, for instance, is 29 yet has been able to advance to the LPGA only this year.

RELATED STORY: Ladies European Tour CEO Seeks to Empower Players



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