Juli Inkster summed up the new LPGA commissioner pretty well. “She’s a jock,” the Hall of Famer said when asked to describe how and why Mollie Marcoux Samaan will fit in as the ninth commissioner of the LPGA, a job she accepted late on Monday night.
Inkster is not wrong. Marcoux Samaan was a two-sport athlete at Princeton where she played ice hockey and soccer and graduated with a degree in history in 1991. A four-year All-Ivy League hockey player, Marcoux Samaan also played golf from an early age, learning the game along with her brother at a course in her hometown of Ithaca, New York, where junior summer memberships were $45. “My parents thought that was the best babysitter they could imagine so they dropped me off early and I played all day,” she said. Her senior thesis at Princeton was entitled “The Social Construction of Sport and Gender: A History of Women’s Golf from 1895 to 1955.” She re-read the 100-page tome recently and joked that, “it’s not the most scholarly of documents.”
But Marcoux Samaan is a great deal more than a jock with a passion for golf. She is also more than a wife and mother of three children, ages 12 to 18. She comes to the LPGA having been the Ford Family Director of Athletics at Princeton since 2014. In that time, Princeton won 65 Ivy League championships, 14 more than the next highest Ivy League school.
“I just think it’s about relationships. That’s what I love, to form relationships and find out how people can work together to accomplish everyone’s goal.” – Mollie Marcoux Samaan
In her first meeting with the media after being announced as commissioner, Marcoux Samaan said, “I have been so fortunate my whole career to be able to follow my passions and to work with organizations really whose values match my own, and when this potential opportunity was presented to me, it dawned on me pretty quickly that it was just the perfect next step in my evolution.”
In a written statement that went out on Tuesday morning, Diane Gulyas, chairman of the board of the LPGA and chair of the search committee said, “Our selection of Mollie Marcoux Samaan as the LPGA’s next Commissioner is the outcome of an extensive and deliberate search process. The position attracted a diverse group of outstanding internal and external candidates, all passionate about the LPGA. We concluded that Mollie is the right leader to guide the LPGA’s next chapter of growth, impact and achievement. Mollie understands the power of golf to change the lives of girls and women. As a values-centered leader, she’s known for her skills in collaboration, managing through complexity and building a winning team culture. In every role, she’s had an outstanding record of performance in navigating change, forging lasting partnerships, and seeing – and seizing – new opportunities,”
Princeton president Christopher Eisgruber said, “Mollie has served Princeton with distinction over the past seven years. Her tenure will be remembered both for the competitive success of Princeton teams and, more importantly, for the contributions that the university’s athletic programs have made to the education and the lives of our students. Mollie exemplifies, in her life and her leadership, the idea of ‘education through athletics.’ We will miss her even as we take pride in her achievements as she moves on to this new opportunity.”
One of the first and most important questions for the new commissioner was about business. Leagues need leaders who can convince sponsors to write checks. On that front, Marcoux Samaan said, “I just think it’s about relationships. That’s what I love, to form relationships and find out how people can work together to accomplish everyone’s goal. I’ve had a lot of opportunity to fundraise through my work at Princeton. We have a sponsorship program within the athletic department, and at Chelsea Piers (where she was before returning to her alma mater) we had great partnerships with many sponsors. Most importantly in any type of relationship it’s just making sure that you have great communication and that you’re finding solutions that everybody is going to benefit from.
“I think at this moment what could be better than sponsoring the LPGA. We’re all working toward providing the most diverse and inclusive environments within our companies. To be able to use the LPGA as a platform and commitment to that equity I think is a huge opportunity.
“If you’re trying to create a company that wants to perform, just look at the women on the tour. Look at how they have to perform day in and day out. The work that goes into it, the struggle that happens for that result at the end of the day is really hard to attain, but the process that they go through is remarkable.
“I think those partnerships – I just can’t wait to talk to sponsors and to talk about the value proposition of the LPGA because I can’t think of a better value proposition.”
As for her top priorities, the new commissioner said, “The first most important thing is to learn and to just listen to absolutely everybody. The only way you can actually form a strategy is to hear from all the different stakeholders, to sort of understand the landscape and then try to simplify that into the core values and core strategy. That’s what I love doing. Outside of being super passionate about sports, it’s about setting a strategy for an organization, and taking really complex ideas and condensing them into a clear strategy.
“So, writing our strategic vision will be sort of priority number one. And thinking about how we expand on the global scale and how we work with our partners around the world to grow the game of golf and to provide even more opportunities for both our pros and women around the world. I can’t wait to dive into that.”
Great opening sentiments. It also doesn’t hurt that she can play a little. Marcoux Samaan is a five-time club champion at North Fork Country Club in Cutchogue, New York, and played in a number of New York Women’s Amateur championships with Dottie Pepper.
“She of course won them all,” Marcoux Samaan said of Pepper. “She was incredible and she was a couple years older than I was, and I remember idolizing her. I love seeing her every weekend now.”
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