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LPGA commissioner Mike Whan to step down in 2021

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 6, 2021 – After completing his 11th year as LPGA Commissioner, Mike Whan has notified the LPGA Board of Directors that he has made the difficult decision to transition out of the LPGA in 2021. While no firm date has been set for his departure, this announcement begins the start of a thorough and thoughtful Commissioner succession process.

Whan shared his decision today with LPGA staff, Members and sponsors in the attached letter, including the following messages:

“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.

“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.

“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 Tours to new heights virtually every year.”

Laurence Applebaum and LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan
Laurence Applebaum and LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan at 2019 CP Women’s Open press conference (Bernard Brault/ Golf Canada)

LPGA Board Chair Diane Gulyas said, “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.

“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.”

“Mike has absolutely been the right leader at the right time,” said Vicki Goetze-Ackerman, the LPGA Tour’s Player President. “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.”

Marvol Barnard, President of the LPGA’s 1,800 teaching Professionals, said, “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 said the Board will establish a Commissioner Selection and Transition Committee and consider candidates from the LPGA’s talented executive staff as well from outside the organization. “It’s clear the LPGA today is a very different Association than the one Mike joined in 2010,” said Gulyas. “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.”

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