Mike Whan announces shock LPGA departure

2016 08 Mike Whan

The commissioner of the LPGA, Mike Whan, has announced that he will be standing down from the role this year.

The bombshell news was shared by Whan in a post on the LPGA website.

Describing the 'difficult decision' to leave the most powerful organisation in women's golf, Whan said: "I know that news may come as a bit of a shock, but trust me when I say it follows many, many months of deep introspection.

"When I first joined the LPGA, I told the Board it would be a four-year term, giving me time to help the organisation achieve its immediate goals.  

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"Now, as the longest-serving LPGA commissioner, I look back on these 11 years with enormous pride and satisfaction at what we’ve accomplished together, to provide opportunities for women to achieve their dreams in golf."

Whan joined the LPGA in October 2009 with the organisation in chaos.

The circuit he inherited from predecessor Carolyn Bivens featured on 24 tournaments on the official schedule in 2010 and total official prize money of $41.4million, down from 28 tournaments and around $47million in 2009.

By 2016, the number of tournaments had risen to 33 with a record-high total prize money in excess of $63million. In 2019, a new record was set with total prize money amounting to $70.5 million (a rise of over $5m in one year).

Despite the problems posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 schedule will feature 34 official events across North America, Europe and Asia, with two new events added to the tournament calendar and players competing for a record $76.45million in official purses.

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The reversal in fortunes can, in part, be attributed to the management of Whan. A shrewd business operator, he is also extremely popular with the players, who have bought into his vision for what the LPGA should be.

"We are entering 2021 on a wave of momentum - a strong schedule with record purses, new events/sponsors, double-digit viewership growth, and a talented team that demonstrated exceptional skill, resilience and capability to lead through challenging times," added Whan.

"I simply wouldn’t leave the LPGA if I thought the future was uncertain or not trending straight up. In fact, even after the challenges we faced in 2020, the LPGA has NEVER been more financially secure, deeper in leadership talent, or more anchored by passionate, diverse sponsors from all around the world.  

"The LPGA is poised for even greater heights and, as such, I’m excited to hand the baton to the next leader and become their biggest supporter.

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"One of the hardest jobs of a leader is to know when their work is done. If the COVID-19 pandemic taught me anything, it was that the LPGA executive staff has full control of our business and is capable of incredible things. We have leaders who are visionary, compassionate, collaborative and humble. You may not agree with every decision they make, but they have led our association to new heights virtually every year."

Whan added he is "not leaving tomorrow" in order to give the LPGA board time to find his successor, a process that is expected to start in the coming weeks.

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