That’s what comes to mind when I reflect on Mike Whan (above) and his role as commissioner of the LPGA.
He cares deeply about the organization, its storied history, the important place it holds on the golf and sports landscape and – most importantly – about its players. That passion is on display in every encounter and allows him to genuinely – and effectively – advocate for the LPGA at every turn. You only need to meet Mike once to know that he is a force. But it’s not for show. And it’s not simply because that’s what he’s been tasked to do. He feels it.
Mike took the role at an incredibly challenging point in the LPGA’s history, as we all know, which coincided with a global recession that threatened the organization’s very existence. But he was the perfect person to lead the LPGA through that crisis crossroads because he truly believes in the tour. Through that belief, he has earned the confidence of his players and restored pride and confidence in the organization. Look at Mike’s scorecard today – more playing opportunities for his members, more financial opportunities, a bigger and more recognizable brand, and more young women and girls inspired to play the game for a lifetime.
To do so, no one could ever fully appreciate the places he’s been in order to achieve that success for the LPGA. You call Mike and he answers on the first or second ring, no matter what time zone he’s in. From Day 1, he has lived and breathed the LPGA and its events, which are the fabric of the organization, and that personal commitment to building and sustaining relationships … it’s exceptionally complicated. Mike never outsources that responsibility and it makes all the difference.
Thanks to his passionate advocacy, leadership and perspective in the past 11 years – and the talented team he’s assembled – the LPGA will continue to grow as the ultimate expression of women’s professional golf.
It’s worth noting that his passionate advocacy for the LPGA is not a selfish endeavor; it’s for the good of the game as a whole. In navigating the pandemic, for instance – as the PGA Tour, the LPGA, the European Tour and the major championships tackled how we could make this work for our players and fans – Mike was a leading voice in the room for all facets of the challenge.
Or when we meet to discuss World Golf Hall of Fame inductees, he fights for gender balance among the class, and rightfully so. Or as part of the industry Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Force, he represents such a critical constituency and is incredibly insightful in helping to identify areas where the game needs to grow and improve. It all adds up to an understanding and influence on the game that makes us all better. I don’t know if he has been given enough credit for that aspect of his leadership.
Jay Monahan is the commissioner of the PGA Tour.