Are the number of petitions increasing?
Yes. My first year I got five or six, and I got
10 to 15 in the last year. An LPGA membership means you have to help sell the tour
in pro-am parties and sponsor outings,
and that’s a pretty significant outside-the–
ropes responsibility. And that’s what most
fans—and even parents and agents—don’t grasp.
It’s probably not the end of the world if parents and agents
realized that petitioning me for a player who is under 16 is
probably a significant long shot. And petitioning at 16 or 17 to
become a member as opposed to going to Q school is probably
going to require, at a minimum, an LPGA win on your résumé.
You can [still accept] six sponsor invites plus qualifiers.
Starting this year, if you have a minimum of five LPGA
starts, if you are under age, we are going to require you to
come to two player-development sessions. If you don’t come
to those by the end of the season, you are going to be limited
to fewer sponsor invites next year.
What are the pluses and minuses of being a global tour?
The pluses are pretty overwhelming. If you look at the bags of
some of our top players, there are brands from literally around
the world. We now have a sponsor pool that is worldwide and
a fan base that is becoming worldwide too. And I really think
we are playing a major role in growing the game worldwide for
women. We are creating role models in all these countries.
And that leads to the negatives. We don’t want to burn players out at 26 or 27. Lorena Ochoa leaving to have a family was a
bit of a wake-up call. We want to make sure that the best female
golfers on the planet, if they want to start a family, they can and
still participate in the LPGA. But if the schedule is too rigorous
and the difficulty of being an LPGA member is too challenging, I
don’t want to lose great players in the prime of their careers.
Does the growth of girls golf in the United States require more
domestic LPGA events?
I’ll always want more and take more. But we have to make
For Whan, shown
with Cristie Kerr at
a 2011 event, the
global nature of the
LPGA has become a
selling point, not a
sure that when we are playing it’s a bigger deal. The schedule
was clearly [a priority initially], but [now] I have to make
sure that all of our events have bigger exposure. I’ve got to
get us to four or five [network broadcasts] a season. I think
we can get a couple this year.
What’s your proudest accomplishment?
In 2010 the global nature of the LPGA was considered by almost
all to be a disadvantage. I think even some of our own members
thought that. Now I almost never have to answer that question.
I think the world is waking up that we are on a glide path of
something that’s really a competitive advantage. As little as two
years ago, people thought it was going to kill us.
Is the largest revenue stream still Korean TV money?
As true as that once was, I could add countries to that list
today. You can imagine how well we do in Japanese TV revenue with Ai Miyazato, Mika Miyazato and Momoko Ueda.
You can do your own exercise for how well we are doing on
Taiwan TV for one obvious reason [Yani Tseng].
Will Kraft Nabisco be a major after 2014?
I absolutely expect Kraft Nabisco to remain on the schedule
in the same place and time, and I wouldn’t say Kraft Nabisco
is going away in 2014. They had a contract that said if they
wanted to exit they had to give us a five-year warning, and
that’s what they did. It doesn’t require them to exit. I see
Kraft getting more involved, not less.
Are you comfortable with five majors?
I am. I don’t know whether I would have said that in 2009 if
I had just been some fan being interviewed on the fairway.
But I think it is good for women’s golf. Evian will become [a
highly] covered tournament.
Did you have to rebuild strained business relations left by your
predecessor, Carolyn Bivens?
I had to listen more than I thought I would in my first year.
It was written that for some of those who left us it was about
my predecessor, but more often than not it was about finances and the downturn in the economy. The best decision I
made was, in early 2010, re-pricing the LPGA to make it less
expensive to be a sponsor and, like a lot of other businesses,
we just made a much thinner margin. We haven’t really
made any money since the day I got here. I’m not proud of
that and I’m not embarrassed by that. At the end of the day,
our job was to keep our players playing.
For much of its 63 years, the LPGA has been painted as being
“on the ropes.” How does that make you feel?
I said internally in 2010 that I loved that people were betting
against us. That would make an easy expectation for us to
deliver. It’s not that different than 63 years ago. What made
the LPGA [work] in 1950 was players who cared more than
just about their score. They cared about the people writing the
check, they cared about the fans. It was important that people
got their money’s worth. And the same is true today. That’s
what’s cool about the LPGA—and has been for 63 years. n