Whan’s LPGA Leadership Puts Him In Rare Air Among Sports Bosses
In the history of sports, few commissioners were consequential, let alone transformational.
Kenesaw Mountain Landis, hired by baseball owners in 1920 to save the sport in the wake of the Black Sox Scandal, was one. Pete Rozelle, who from 1960-89 made the NFL into America’s top team sport, was another. Perhaps David Stern, who oversaw the revitalization of the NBA during a 30-year tenure than ended in 2014. That’s about it.
You can add Mike Whan to that short list. Whan, 53, enters his 10th season at the LPGA as its longest-serving commissioner, its most consequential and one of the most transformational leaders in the history of sports.
Landis stabilized an established product when its future was in question. Rozelle shepherded a promising product to maturity. Stern took a league that had fallen to the back of the sports pages and moved it back out front.
Whan has done all of that. Not only did his team – and he always emphasizes that it’s been a team effort – stabilize the LPGA, the schedule expanded in a visionary way that made the LPGA more global while adding unique events that made the tour more attractive to fans and TV executives. He’s also given his players access to much greater wealth.
In 2019 alone, the LPGA will unveil the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions in Orlando, with winners from the past two years; the ISPS Handa Vic Open, a concurrent women’s and men’s event in Austral...
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