Questions for ... LPGA Tour Commissioner Michael Whan

Wednesday February 3rd, 2010
Michael Whan says the LPGA Tour plans to add more events to the 2010 schedule.
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Jan. 4 was your first official day on the job as the eighth LPGA Tour commissioner. What have you been doing in these first days in your new role?
\nI had meetings the first day. I'm getting to know the staff and the structure and talking to tournaments and potential tournaments. That's the priority.

\n \n \nYou started your career at Procter & Gamble, where you were the lead brand manager for Metamucil and Crest, among other roles. How different is marketing Metamucil and toothpaste from women's golf?
\nThis isn't my first time marketing to women. Crest's core audience consisted of women. But really the most important thing I think in marketing is getting to know what people want. I have spent most of my time in the new job asking questions and listening to learn the business.

\n \nOf the LPGA Tour's 24 tournaments in 2010, 11 will be held outside the United States. What are your outlook and goals for the tour both domestically and internationally?
\nOur brand had already gone global before I got here. I didn't come here to stunt any international growth. This will always be a U.S-.based tour that will showcase women's golf around the world.

\nThe tour had 34 events in 2008, 27 in 2009 and just 24 in 2010. How do you stop the downward spiral?
\nI'm not setting any numbers. I certainly want to put our players out more than 24 times. We'll add a couple of events to the existing 2010 schedule.

\n \nIn the 1970s, Philip Morris began supporting women's tennis to market its Virginia Slims brand to women. It practically saved women's tennis. Does the LPGA need a great patron that sees the tour as a great opportunity to market to women?
\nIt's not about a partner. We need many partners. There are several brands that understand our value and the place we have in women's sports.

\n \nWhat's your plan for the LPGA Tour?
\nPeople always ask me that. I've told people that I have a 5- or 6-point strategy. But I don't want to rush it. I want to make sure that we get it right. The LPGA needs three things: great performance, great opportunity to show that talent and great supporters. I believe that we will have all three.

\n \nGrowing up in Cincinnati you spent your high school and college summers working at a golf course so that you could play free. What were some of your jobs?
\nI cut greens in the morning and fairways in the afternoon. I was the guy in the ball cap and the cut-offs on a tractor trying to avoid getting hit by golf balls in the fairways. I started work at 5:30 a.m. and got off at 2:30 in the afternoon. I was on the first tee by 4 p.m. with my golf clubs. I'm about a 10 or 11 handicap now. I haven't posted a score in a month or two. I guess I better start posting them. People are starting to ask.

\n \n \nWhat's the best advice you have gotten so far about the job?
\nBefore I accepted the job I reached out for advice from former LPGA Tour Commissioner Charlie Meacham. I wanted to know if I could be the kind of father I wanted to be with the demands of this job. I have three teenage kids and raising them is the most important thing to me. Mr. Meacham told me that when your kids become teenagers they stop listening to you and they start watching what you do. He said if you want your kids to follow their passions, then you have to lead by example. That's something that will always stay with me.

\nDo you need a Tiger Woods-caliber star to vault this tour forward?
\nI think with any sport the superstars will rise to the top. I was interested in coming to the LPGA now because of the number of 20- and 21-year-olds who understand what it takes to build a great tour. There are seven or eight ladies who have the potential to be the face of the game.

\n \nWhat's the funniest thing that's happened to you on the job so far?
\nI hurt my back pulling my reserved space sign out of a cement base in the parking lot at the LPGA Tour headquarters in Daytona Beach. I don't want a special space. This isn't the Mike Whan Tour. It's about the players, fans and corporate partners. We're all in the same foxhole.\n \n

\n What was the last book you read?
Every Shot Must Have a Purpose: How GOLF54 Can Make You a Better Player by Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott.

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