WINNIPEG - Mike Whan has been on the top for only eight months, so it’s unrealistic to expect him to solve all of the LPGA Tour’s challenges he inherited.
While sitting down with members of the media earlier this week at the CN Canadian Women’s Open, the LPGA commissioner showcased a feisty side to him that should serve him well as he tries to get the top women’s tour back to the status it enjoyed during its glory days.
Given an opportunity to lay out the challenges facing a tour that has seen its schedule trimmed from a high-water mark of more than 40 to just 25 official events in 2010, Whan didn’t seem to appreciate the query.
“You know, you probably know the answer to the question,” said Whan. “When we’re playing, everybody wins, players win, sponsors win, young girls around the world who want to aspire to do this win, local charities win. And when we’re sitting at home practising, none of that happens.”
But if it was easy to add 10 to 15 events to the mix, the announcements would be coming fast and furious.
“I use the phrase role reversal a lot,” said Whan. “If you want to play more, the first thing you have to do is think like a sponsor, not think like a professional golfer.
“If we’re going to talk about a tournament, the first 50% of that discussion has to be about the person who is writing the cheque, not tee boxes, not how we are going to rake the traps, not what are they running on the stimpmeter.
“So it’s really making sure that we’re putting on an event that works with our business partners. I’ve never liked the term ‘sponsor.’ Didn’t like it when I was one, don’t like it now that I’m dealing with them. I prefer the term business partnership because that means you both have a role.”
Whan remains proud of the global impact of the women’s game and the tour is playing events all around the world.
“That’s what we really want to do, we want to showcase the absolute best in the world,” said Whan. “We’ve got sponsors from around the world, we’ve got players from around the world. We’ve got fans from around the world. Your TV telecast will go to hundreds of millions of homes around the world.
“And just 10, 15 years ago, that wasn’t even an idea anybody could really fathom. If you’re a 12-year-old girl hitting balls anywhere in the world, you can not only dream of this, you probably have a role model in your hometown that’s pulling it off as we speak. I think the LPGA is really about inspiring and empowering women through the game of golf.”
The globalization of the game is to be applauded, but at the end of the day, more tournaments are needed in the United States.
That day is coming sooner than later, according to the commish.
“To me, there’s eight or nine markets that are tough to realize that we’re not in,” said Whan. “I feel comfortable telling you that we’ll play more in 2011 than we played in 2010.
“As I’ve said to the players, if we play three more tournaments, six more tournaments or no more tournaments, it won’t be enough for any of us, myself included.”