Michael Whan became the eighth commissioner of the LPGA – one of the longest-running and most successful women's sports organizations in the world – in January 2010. Into his eighth year as Commissioner, Whan has led a resurgence of the LPGA by enhancing business relationships, attracting new sponsors, increasing exposure for the players, maximizing the LPGA experience for fans, embracing the global makeup of the Tour and piloting the “See Why Its Different Out Here” marketing campaign that focuses on the unique and approachable personalities of the LPGA players.
During his first few years at the helm, Whan oversaw strong renewal rates amongst title and marketing partners, developed new tournaments that showcase the world’s best players and drove huge increases in the LPGA’s television viewership. Not shy to embrace the global aspect of the LPGA, Whan has expanded playing opportunities throughout Asia while increasing the number of North American tournaments for the U.S.-based Tour. His “role reversal” concept challenges players and staff to think like the sponsors and ensures that everyone plays a role in delivering value to those who financially support the Tour.
Whan has challenged the status quo with bold new ideas such as the LPGA Founders Cup, which honors the legacy of the Tour’s 13 Founders while supporting the future of the game. He’s enhanced the LPGA brand with the creation of the Race to the CME Globe, a new season-long points race that debuted in 2014 and includes a $1 million first-place prize, and he’s given women’s golf another big stage with the addition of The Evian Championship as the LPGA’s fifth major.
Purses have jumped above $60 million with television ratings showing steady climb and coverage hours surpassing 400 for the first time. In addition, under Whan the developmental Symetra Tour has added six events and increased prize money by 53 percent, the LPGA’s Girls Golf program connected with 60,000 new girls annually in 2016 – up from 5,000 in ’10, and the LPGA’s Teaching division has its largest ever membership and has now expanded into Asia. Now embracing “all things global,” the LPGA caters to fans in 225 countries via the website and boasts television partners in 175 countries. As a testament to Whan’s efforts, in 2015 the LPGA was recognized for its over-all growth –being selected by Sports Business Journal as one of five finalists for “Sports League of the Year” alongside the NBA, NASCAR, MLS & Big East Conference.
Whan, started his business career at the Procter & Gamble Company in 1987, rising within the ranks as a Brand Assistant, Brand Manager and eventually Director of Marketing, Oral Care, before pursuing his passion for sports. In 1994-95, he served as a Vice President and General Manager at the Wilson Sporting Goods Company responsible for all aspects of the golf ball and glove business. He also managed the marketing department, two manufacturing facilities and the Research & Development division. Whan joined the TaylorMade Golf Company as Vice President of Marketing in 1995. Over the course of his four-year tenure, he was promoted to Vice President, Sales and Marketing and eventually EVP/General Manager-North America for TaylorMade-Adidas Golf. In his role as General Manager, Whan’s business unit represented more than 70 percent of the company’s worldwide sales and profit.
Whan served as President/Chief Marketing Officer for Britesmile, Inc., from 1999-2002, before returning to sports as the President-CEO of Mission Hockey, a hockey equipment company. During his seven-year tenure in the hockey business, he restructured and redefined the company, then acquired Itech Sports to create Mission-Itech Hockey. When Whan finalized the sale of Mission-Itech Hockey, it commanded market share leadership in nine product categories, sales in more than 30 countries and had more than 50 percent of the National Hockey League (NHL) players using the brands.