Fond Farewell Tour
Charlie Mechem began his final year of duty as commissioner of the LPGA tour by dropping in on the Tournament of Champions in Orlando last week. That was hardly a surprise. In four years on the job Mechem has traveled to every LPGA event on the schedule, logging more than 2.5 million miles and spreading a lot of goodwill. "We're going to miss Charlie," says Beth Daniel. "He's a friend to so many of us."
Mechem has been more than a friend. He has been a savior to a tour that desperately needed leadership and stability following the aborted reign of Bill Blue, a man who showed little interest in the job or the tour in his two years at the helm.
Mechem, who joined the LPGA after 24 years in television, has increased the tour's on-air exposure and its purses. Prize money has risen from $16 million to $24 million in his tenure. This year 26 events will be broadcast, 10 of them on the Golf Channel. There are still gaping holes in the early schedule, but Mechem has brought the LPGA respect it had never had within the golf establishment.
"Charlie's worked the job," says Herb Lotman, chairman of Keystone Foods, which is a sponsor of the LPGA Championship. In 1991 Lotman was about to take his company's dollars away from the tournament and put them behind a Senior PGA Tour event. But one meeting with the newly appointed Mechem persuaded Lotman to remain faithful. "Charlie helped build the credibility that his predecessor destroyed," says Lotman.
Daniel, a former LPGA executive committee member, says choosing a candidate to replace Mechem "may be the most important decision our tour makes." The leading candidates are Jack Frazee, former chairman of Centel; Barbara Litrell, publisher of McCall's magazine; and Jan Thompson, vice president and general manager of Wilson Golf.
A key question is whether the time is right for a woman commissioner. "Golf is a man's world, and we're women trying to succeed in a man's world," says Daniel. "I don't think we should hire a woman just to hire a woman. If there's a woman who has the credentials and the charisma to be commissioner, then fine. But we shouldn't go out seeking a woman commissioner." Mechem is typically diplomatic on the subject. "There are women capable of doing the job, and I have no question that there will be a woman commissioner of the LPGA in the future," he says. "The selection committee and the players have to determine whether now's the time or later."
A Happy Return
With part of a donor's kneecap and a titanium plate in his neck, Lee Trevino went to Puerto Rico last week hoping just to finish the season-opening Senior tour Tournament of Champions. He not only finished, he also threatened to win.
Eleven weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a ruptured cervical disk, Trevino relied on his short game to make up for an obvious loss of strength. He handled heavy winds on the East course at the Hyatt Dorado Beach Resort by gripping down on his irons and punching approach shots. Trevino was tied for the lead after 36 holes, having taken only 27 and 25 putts in the first and second rounds. After that second round he said he would sleep with his putter and wedge that night. "I don't care if I shoot 80 tomorrow," he said. "I've proven something to myself."