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Does Orender want to be the LPGA's next commissioner?

October 05, 2009

The search for a new LPGA commissioner has moved into a second round of interviews with one of the two candidates sources say leads the list of possible replacements for ousted Carolyn Bivens sounding like she doesn't want the job - sort of. One published report flat-out says WNBA president Donna Orender doesn't want to take over the women's tour, but her own words fall short of completely removing herself from consideration.

"I was flattered by the widespread support of the industry who strongly encouraged me to look at this opportunity and the prospect of working again with so many people who I respect and with whom there is a  history of success," Orender told in an email. "The WNBA Is in the midst of it's most successful finals in the leagues history and to continue to work with the dedicated team who is passionately committed to it's future is a good fit for me."

Orender, who was a senior VP for the PGA Tour before going to the WNBA and whose husband, M.G. Orender, is a past president of the PGA of America, has strong links to the golf community. That's one of the qualities the headhunting firm of Spencer Stuart said was essential. Bivens came from outside the golf community and never really became an insider.

If Orender is sending a signal to the LPGA that she is not interested in the job - a position she has never openly campaigned for - that would could clear the path for USGA chief business officer Peter Bevacqua to get the job. Sources familiar with the situation say his strong ties to the business community needed by the LPGA is a real plus. Sources also say Bevacqua has the backing of several powerful people among television networks, tournament management and other stakeholders in professional golf.

In any case, Orender's words may indicate she is reading the writing on the wall, and that writing seems to be saying that Bevacqua has a head in front in the race to the corner office at LPGA headquarters in Daytona Beach. Given the fact the tour is likely in store for from restructuring of its business model under the new commissioner, Bevacqua has perfect credentials. He oversaw a belt-tightening at the USGA that helped it get through the brutal recession.

The sources tell the search process could take several more weeks as each candidate is exhaustively interviewed multiple times. Spencer Stuart, and the LPGA search committee, are aware the next commissioner will face the greatest challenges in the 60-year-history of the tour and that this is likely the LPGA's most impportant hire. As of now, fewer that 20 tournaments have committed for 2010 and, according to insiders, not all of those who have committed have signed contracts. In 2008, there were 34 LPGA events.

Realizing the importance of this hire, the tour is moving with extreme caution, exploring every nook and cranny of every candidate. The plan is to not rush things and state-of-the-tour address at the Tour Championship in Houston, likely on Nov. 18, will be delivered by retired Rear Admiral Marty Evans, the acting commissioner, even if a new commissioner has been hired.

--Ron Sirak