Under new commissioner Mike Whan
(below) the LPGA continues to evolve at the pace of a laboratory virus. Beginning at last month's Kia Classic, each player now receives a two-page document at every tournament with the names and faces (photos) of the key sponsors on site and the reasons those sponsors are supporting the event, with the goal of encouraging a better relationship between the players and the people paying the bills. The approach has already begun to pay dividends as the CN Canadian Women's Open has agreed to a three-year extension, and Jacuzzi has signed on as a new partner in tour promotions. Whan has also begun sending monthly e-mail updates to the players detailing items he needs their help with, such as upcoming sponsorship renewals. And at his first commissioner's meeting he brought in translators so everyone could follow along and make his or her voice heard. It's part of his plan to bring the global membership together to rebuild morale and the schedule.
To motivate the players, he has reminded them of the LPGA pioneers, who 60 years ago were willing to get involved and make a difference. And he has shown that he understands the players' needs too. Starting at the LPGA State Farm Classic in June, full-field events will expand from 144 to 150 players during the summer months.
There are still problems—the LPGA Championship could be homeless and sponsorless again after 2010; finances are tight because of decisions made by the previous administration—but there's a heartbeat and a plan. A year ago I could hardly find either.
Dottie Pepper, a 17-year LPGA veteran, is an analyst for NBC.