Michael P. Whan, a veteran marketing executive who has worked for TaylorMade Golf and more recently as CEO for Mission Itech Hockey, will be announced Wednesday as the eighth commissioner of the LPGA, sources told GolfDigest.com. The sources said Whan was offered the job last Friday and accepted Monday. In a release Tuesday night, the LPGA said it would introduce the new commissioner at Madison Square Garden at 9 a.m., but did not say who that would be.
Whan replaces Rear Admiral Marty Evans, who was made acting commissioner in July when Carolyn Bivens was forced from office by a player revolt following the loss of several tournaments, including the Ginn Open, Corning Classic and Kapalua LPGA Classic. A search for a full-time commissioner began immediately.
By all accounts Evans did an excellent job in her short stint, bringing back several tournaments that were on the fence for 2010 by allowing them to return with lower prize money. Still, Whan has a difficult task ahead of him with fewer than 20 events committed for next year and some of those yet to have signed contracts.
Whan was vice president, general manager of TaylorMade Golf from 1996 to 2000 when he joined BriteSmile Inc., which makes a teeth-whitening product, as president of worldwide marketing. Whan held a variety of positions at Procter & Gamble Co. from 1987-95 including director of marketing for Crest toothpaste. Mission Itech Hockey is an equipment company acquired by Bauer Hockey last year.
David Higdon, chief communications officer for the LPGA, did not return emails, voice messages or text messages sent by GolfDigest.com asking for comment. The sources said Whan was in a New York hotel awaiting Wednesday's announcement after players, many of whom are competing in Korea this week, were briefed on the news. The answering machine at Whan's office phone in California said his voice mailbox was full.
The selection of Whan comes as a bit of a surprise. Donna Orender, the former PGA Tour executive and current WNBA president, was considered an early frontrunner but stepped aside early in the process. Former U.S. Tennis Association president Arlen Kantarian was also in the hunt, as was USGA chief business officer Peter Bevacqua.
In Whan, the LPGA has hired someone with a background in golf, a resume deficiency that hurt Bivens, and vast experience in marketing, something the tour desperately needs. While possessing a deep reservoir of international talent, the tour is searching for a marquee star to replace the retired Annika Sorenstam. Absent that, it is a product looking for a story to tell, and that's a challenge even for the best marketer.