LPGA pays tribute to outgoing commissioner Mike Whan

Mike Whan (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The LPGA has expressed its appreciation to outgoing commissioner Mike Whan following his surprise decision to step down in 2021.

“Mike Whan has been a transformational leader of the LPGA and we’ve been fortunate to retain him for 11 years. When he told of me of his intention to step down this year, I had two reactions: First, can we persuade him to stay? And, when that wasn’t possible, to fully respect his decision and begin a seamless transition,” said LPGA board chair Diane Gulyas.

“Mike’s leadership legacy will be felt for years: in the LPGA’s financial strength and value proposition; in its global reach; in the breadth of programs and services it now offers for women and girls in golf; and in the diversity and quality of companies wanting to partner with the LPGA. He has effectively guided the LPGA through a range of economic cycles and challenges, including the Covid-19 pandemic. And, he has been the voice of our association and its commitment to opportunities for women in golf,” she added.

Whan notified the LPGA board of his decision in a letter sent on Wednesday, having just completed his 11th year as commissioner.

“When I first joined the LPGA, I told the board it would be a four-year term, giving me time to help the organization achieve its immediate goals. 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 noted in the letter.

“You may be wondering why I’ve made the decision to step down – and why now? In many ways, this past year – with all the pandemic challenges – was also the LPGA’s most triumphant. 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.

“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.”

Vicki Goetze-Ackerman, the LPGA Tour’s player president, noted that Whan “has absolutely been the right leader at the right time.”

“He rebuilt the tour – and then reimagined its future – by bringing new events, new sponsors and a new value proposition around diversity and inclusion to the LPGA. He has that rare ability to get people of all ages and backgrounds excited and on board with his vision. We’re grateful for his leadership over these 11 years and know he’ll remain an advocate for the LPGA long after he departs,” Goetze-Ackerman stressed.

Marvol Barnard, president of the LPGA’s 1,800 teaching professionals, added: “When Mike joined the LPGA in 2010, we were essentially a tour and a teaching division. Today, we are a bigger, broader, integrated organization dedicated to women in golf of all ages and abilities. Mike will always be an incredibly important person in the history of the LPGA professionals, and we will always be grateful for his leadership, vision and guidance.”

Gulyas noted that the board will establish a selection and transition committee to consider candidates from the LPGA’s executive staff as well as from outside the organization. “It’s clear the LPGA today is a very different association than the one Mike joined in 2010. Our commitment to the LPGA – and all of our stakeholders – is to find the right leader to guide the association through this next chapter in its storied history.

“We are so grateful for Mike’s passion and leadership of the LPGA over more than a decade of service as our commissioner. He will leave the LPGA well positioned for continued success, with an outstanding team of leaders and a strong and sustained culture – Act Like A Founder – that will endure for years to come,” said Gulyas.

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