The LPGA Tour has announced that its commissioner, Mike Whan, has resigned and will leave his post later this year.
Whan, the LPGA’s eighth and longest-serving leader, recently completed his 11th season with the US-based women’s tour. No date for his resignation was disclosed and no replacement has been announced.
In a letter to the LPGA’s staff, players and sponsors, Whan wrote: “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.
“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. 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.”
He added: “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.”
In November 2019, Whan signed what the LPGA called ‘a long-term contract’ without elaborating on the terms. That followed a six-year contract extension that the LPGA had announced in 2015.
Whan, 55, whose career in sales and marketing included executive positions with Procter & Gamble, Wilson Sporting Goods and TaylorMade Golf, rescued the LPGA after a tumultuous four-year run under Carolyn Bivens marked by declining sponsorship and a player revolt ended in mid-2009.
The Bivens era was marred by a failed attempt to enforce “English only” for the tour’s players, a growing number of whom were from South Korea. Bivens resigned when 15 of the top women’s players of the era – Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Lorena Ochoa and Se Ri Pak among them – signed a letter to the LPGA’s board demanding change.
In rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted the tour to cancel 18 events last year, including all seven tournaments in Asia, the LPGA recently announced a 34-tournament schedule and a record $76.45 million in prize money, as well as a closer working relationship with the Ladies European Tour, following the setting up of the LPGA-LET Joint Venture in September last year.