The commissioner of the LPGA is standing his ground amid the growing furore over Sophia Popov’s tour exemption.
It had been assumed that Popov would receive a five-year pass for the LPGA following her victory in the AIG Women’s Open last weekend.
However, it was later discovered that, as she was not a member of the tour at the time of her win, the German will only receive an exemption to play on the most lucrative women’s circuit until the end of 2021.
Popov, who has described herself as “a little bit frustrated” with the news, has received widespread support from across the golf world since the news broke on Thursday.
However, the LPGA’s power-brokers are unmoved.
Addressing the matter in a recorded statement released during Friday’s second round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, tour commissioner Mike Whan said that he sympathises with Popov – but added that he won’t be making an exception for her.
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“I’ve been commissioner for 11 years. I’ve seen plenty of non-member wins at majors,” he said. “I’ve seen almost all of those non-member winners go on to long and storied careers on the LPGA.
“Maybe we should feel different about non-member major wins, period. I will definitely look at that. What I won’t do is change a regulation in the middle of the season. That’s not the right way to run a sport, and quite frankly not the fairest way to treat your athletes.”
Whan added: “I hope this doesn’t take away, for all of us, what Sophia deserves, which is an incredible win, an incredible opportunity that she’s earned. And I’m quite certain that Sophia, like others that have come before her, will turn that opportunity into a long-term career.”
Watch his full statement below: