NEW YORK (Reuters) – The LPGA Tour’s search for a full-time commissioner to rebuild relationships with sponsors and players ended on Wednesday with the appointment of former marketing executive Michael Whan.
Whan, 44, will replace Carolyn Bivens who resigned in July after several LPGA players voiced concerns about the health of the tour in the face of the economic downturn.
The position had been filled on a temporary basis by Marsha J. Evans, a member of the LPGA’s board of directors.
Whan, who has a professional background in golf, will take over in January after a transition period working with Evans.
“I could not be happier to join the LPGA at this exciting time,” Whan told a news conference at Madison Square Garden. “Golf is special to me.
“It’s been special to me my whole life. I was that crazy high school kid cutting greens at 5:30 in the morning so he could play free golf in the afternoon and caddie on Sundays.
“It is rare to work for an organisation that combines all the passions in your life but, with the LPGA, I feel I’ve been presented with the unique opportunity to do just that.”
Dawn Hudson, chairman of the LPGA’s board of directors, said “very strict criteria” had been laid out in the three-month search for a new commissioner.
“Mike impressed us not only with his background and intellect but also his passion for golf,” she said.
Helen Alfredsson, a seven-times winner on the LPGA Tour and a member of the board of directors, applauded the appointment.
“It seemed clear to me from the very beginning when I first met Mike that he would be such a great commissioner for us,” she said. “His honesty and integrity were big, big things.
“He didn’t try to tell the right things to be in there, he just said what he felt. I think the players are going to be super happy with the way that he is.”
In early July, several LPGA players sent a letter to the LPGA board calling for Bivens to resign amid concern about the economic health of the tour.
At that point, the women’s tour had lost seven tournaments since 2007, including all three in Hawaii, and numerous others are up for renewal at the end of the year.
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