New LPGA Commissioner
The resignation last week of LPGA commissioner Jim Ritts surprised many but worried few. By an 11-0 vote the tour's board of directors promptly replaced Ritts with his righthand man, 37-year-old Ty Votaw, who will take office in mid-March. "This won't disrupt the LPGA at all," says Hall of Famer Pat Bradley. "[Ty is] a businessman, but a friend too. That's half the battle."
Votaw is a capable insider who, as vice president of business affairs, handled TV ad sales, tournament scheduling and sponsor relations for Ritts. But Votaw is unproven as a leader.
Certainly his outlook has broadened since his days as a law student at North Carolina. "He was very conservative," says Michael Hauser, a sports and entertainment lawyer and one of four former classmates who meet with Votaw every year. "If you had asked us in 1984 who'd be in a leadership position for an organization to promote women, Ty might not have been your first choice. He wore a lot of brown because Ronald Reagan did."
Ritts, who leaves to become chief operating officer of Digital Entertainment Network, a California corporation that plans to deliver television-style programs over the Internet, was seen by some as an ambitious outsider who treated the LPGA as a rung on his career ladder. The caddies called him Jerry Springer because of a physical resemblance. Some players called him Mr. Slick.
Few complained about his performance. In three years as commissioner, Ritts, 45, boosted tournament purses 48.4%, added seven tournaments and got TV exposure for a record 33 events, up from 19 in '94. He also steered his ship around such dangerous shoals as the lesbian issue ( Muffin Spencer-Devlin came out with dignity on his watch) and the fence-around-the-Hall-of-Fame fiasco (players passed liberalized admission standards last week).
"I wasn't hired to be an agent of change," Votaw said last Friday from his home office in Ridgefield, Conn. "The last three years have seen the most dramatic growth in our history." In other words look for a continuation of the policies of Ritts and his predecessor, Charlie Mechem, who hired Votaw in 1991. "Not to sound too Reaganesque," says Votaw, "but the question I ask is, 'Are our" players better off than they were in 1991?' The answer is yes. Can we do better? Yes."
Hammerin' Hank Punishes Pebble
The longest hitter at last week's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am was U.S. Amateur champion Hank Kuehne, who was swinging from the heels, and the white tees, all week.
"If they're going to put me up there, I figure I might as well just go for it," said Kuehne, who reduced Pebble to a pitch-and-putt and onlookers to giggles.