LPGA's Mike Whan Committed To Increasing Tour's Media Exposure
LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan's long-term contract extension will see him lead the tour as it "tries to expand its exposure through a new television deal being negotiated," according to Doug Ferguson of the AP. When Whan "took over" for former Commissioner Carolyn Bivens in September '10, the LPGA that season had 24 tournaments with total official prize money of $41.4M. Now, the LPGA is "finishing up a season" with 32 officials events and $70.2M in prize money. However, even as prize money increases, Whan is "hopeful of broadening the exposure through television." The LPGA Tour is "using the PGA Tour as its negotiator for the next TV contract," which expires after '21. The LPGA "typically uses an outside agency to help with negotiations." But Whan said this summer that "no one has been more successful than the PGA Tour" in such negotiations. Whan is also "bullish on trying to persuade more companies to pour sponsorship dollars in the women's game as they do for the men, either through tournaments or individual players" (AP, 11/20).
MORE THAN A GAME: GOLFCHANNEL.com's Randall Mell noted after the extension was announced yesterday, Whan "responded with a letter to his organization." His letter "recounts the success he wants members and partners to celebrate and outlines goals he wants to continue to pursue." The letter also puts a "special emphasis on the LPGA's opportunity to advance larger causes, including closing the gender pay gap." Whan in the letter "challenged members to use their platforms to succeed" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 11/20).
WE NEED A HERO: GOLFWEEK's Beth Ann Nichols wrote while Whan can "impact so many aspects of the LPGA's success," he "can't control who wins." Nichols: "That's the one element that's sorely needed on this tour -- a superstar." Ariya Jutanugarn is a "sensation in Thailand," and Hinako Shibuno "moves the needle in Japan." Additionally, Sung Hyun Park's popularity in South Korea is "akin to a pop star." But "none of those players are household names in the U.S." World Golf HOFer Nancy Lopez said, "If we had that one player that brought people to the golf course every week, I think our purses would grow a little bit faster too." The LPGA is a "global tour" that "needs a global star." Golfer Cristie Kerr doubts the tour will "ever again see a player win 10 and 11 times in a season" like World Golf HOFer Annika Sorenstam (GOLFWEEK.com, 11/20).
GLOBAL COMPETITION: In Florida, Greg Hardwig writes the "year-to-year, ongoing saga of where Americans stand" on the LPGA against the rest of the world "appears to be in another downturn." Hardwig: "Does it really matter?" Perhaps "not to the tour itself, which has successfully marketed itself as a global tour and tapped into the Asian market." However, golfer Stacy Lewis said, "It matters to the tour in the aspect of people watching and your sponsors. Your American players ... are the ones that sell a little easier" (NAPLES DAILY NEWS, 11/21).