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THE NEW COMMISH

June 19, 1995
June 19, 1995

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June 19, 1995

THE NEW COMMISH

Jim Ritts, the newly selected LPGA commissioner, placed two golf
shoes, one his size, 8-1/2, and the other a size 16, on the table
in front of him at a press conference last Thursday. ``I have no
illusions,'' the 41-year-old Ritts said, ``that I can fill Charlie
Mechem's shoes.'' But the fact is that a lot of people are hoping
he can.

This is an article from the June 19, 1995 issue Original Layout

Ritts was meeting the media at LGPA headquarters in Daytona Beach
with his predecessor, Mechem, who is actually a size 9. A
marketing whiz with no sports management in his otherwise
impressive resume, Ritts had been at Whittle Communications since
1984. There, as executive VP for marketing, he cofounded Channel
One, the national current-events news program for schoolkids that
was Whittle's most profitable -- and most controversial --
enterprise. Ritts's marketing savvy seems to have appealed most to
the search committee.

Starting with 100 or so candidates -- of whom 40 were women --
the committee pared the list to 15, including Barbara Littrell,
the publisher of McCall's magazine, and Jane Evans, a former VP
for US West. By mid-April there were three finalists: Jack
Frazee, former chairman and CEO of Centel Corp.; Merrily Dean
Baker, former No. 2 at the NCAA and before that the athletic
director at Michigan State; and Ritts.

Frazee, 51, is well connected in the business world, but he also
has some baggage -- he belongs to Chicago's all-male Old Elm Golf
Club, from which he refused to resign to curry favor with the
committee. Gail Graham, who led the search committee, insisted
that ``the committee had made up its mind without considering all
that.'' Frazee's candidacy may have suffered more as a result of
some infighting. A small but vocal faction of players led by Cindy
Rarick, whom Frazee signed to an endorsement contract when he
headed Centel, lobbied the search committee hard on Frazee's
behalf, but their politicking may have proved more grating than
ingratiating.

The candidacy of Baker, 52, may have been more a concession to
having a female finalist than anything else, though Graham
contends the search was ``non-gender specific.''

Ritts's only professional sports experience was working as a
football statistician for ABC Sports while he was an undergraduate
at Texas in the mid-'70s. Ritts does, however, have a clear idea
of what he wants to emphasize when he takes over as commissioner
at the end of 1995: sponsor-related opportunities and increased
brand identity through licensing and promotion. Making his ideas
into reality will be the test, of course, of whether he can fill
those big shoes.

-- Amy Nutt

COLOR PHOTO:MICHAEL COHENRitts, the LPGA's next No. 1, is a graduate of Channel One.[Jim Ritts]