Mike Whan hails 'game-changing' support for women's golf

Mike Whan believes the future is bright for women’s golf after watching the likes of R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers “pick up the rope” and pull in that direction in a “game-changing” manner.

LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan is stepping down this year after 11 years in the role but believes the women's game is in good hands. Picture: Donald Miralle/Getty Images.
LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan is stepping down this year after 11 years in the role but believes the women's game is in good hands. Picture: Donald Miralle/Getty Images.

Whan delivered his prediction as LPGA members in particular were coming to terms with the surprise announcement that he is stepping down as the circuit’s commissioner this year after an 11-year stint.

In a conference call with reporters, he spoke about how proud he is to see the LPGA now boasting a strong schedule of events after it had been floundering when he took over the post.

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That, of course, also now includes the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open, the status of which has been elevated considerably since it was purely a Ladies European Tour event.

The AIG Women’s Open is another of the big events on the LPGA calendar, with an exciting schedule, which includes a first visit to Muirfield next year, through to 2025 having been announced by the R&A.

Under the leadership of Slumbers, the St Andrews-based organisation launched a Women in Golf Charter in 2018 and has now rolled out a new campaign called #FOREeveryone aimed at attracting more women and girls into the game.

Elsewhere, the Augusta National Women’s Amateur tournament was introduced in 2019 while Whan says the USGA has also upped its efforts when it comes to trying to build the women’s game.

“I'll leave legacy stuff up to you guys,” he told reporters. “I hope that others will respect the fact that I tried to engage and encourage others to get behind this mission, even if it wasn't part of theirs.

“When I think back to 2010, we didn't have the PGA of America engaged in a big way. We didn't have the R&A engaged in a big way.

“The PGA Tour was a competitor as opposed to a partner. The USGA wrote a cheque to LPGA girls golf but wouldn't really be a part of it.

“I've sent a letter to the Martin Slumbers and Keith Pelleys of the world and Jay Monahans and Will Jones at Augusta.

“I mean, what they've done for women's golf in my tenure is game-changing. All of the biggest things that happened at the LPGA happened because some other partner said, ‘I can help you with that, Mike’, and took it over.

“So now our biggest events, our biggest go-forwards, all of our biggest contracts have the thumbprint of somebody else who didn't need to do this.

“Others in the industry have really picked up the rope. The KPMG Women's PGA, the girls’ golf programme and US Women's Open, the fact that the Women's Open Championship is what it is today and the fact that we played four our five events with the (Ladies) European Tour and Keith has joined the European board.

“It's why I feel so good about the future of the game. It's not us against everybody as I felt like it once was 11 years ago. I really feel like it's golf now, pushing together to succeed, and that matters.

“And I'm proud of that. Even though I've probably driven them crazy in 11 years, they really responded when I challenged them and they've made us better, better than I could have made us without them.”

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