Apparently the road to Daytona goes through Ohio. More specifically, through Miami University and the law firm of Taft, Stettinius and Hollister. Past commissioners Charlie Mechem and Ty Votaw are former Redhawks and onetime staffers at the Cincinnati-based firm. And here's the real kicker: The mom of new commissioner Mike Whan(below) was the executive assistant to the firm's managing partner. In 1991, when Votaw wanted to tell the partners that he was leaving to work at the LPGA, he had to call Karen Whan to get an appointment.
The Mechem-Whan connection goes even deeper. Both came in after a player revolt forced out the previous commissioner. Both inherited a tour with, as Mechem called it in the late '80s, an "institutional inferiority complex." Player morale was a problem then and is today. Mechem led the turnaround by building relationships first and business second. Those who know him say Whan is cut from the same cloth.
He inherits strained relationships and a schedule with enormous holes. His product is more global, which gives the tour dramatic opportunities but also dramatic challenges, including cultural differences, language barriers and a struggling economy. He impressed tournament owners and sponsors by attending their summit the day after being named commissioner and by being approachable. He'll do well to replace the board with a stronger one that was not chosen by his predecessor. Whan's supporters speak of his energy, moral compass and communication skills. I hope he can use those tools to move the LPGA forward. The ladies deserve it!
Dottie Pepper is a 17-year LPGA veteran and an on-course analyst for NBC and Golf Channel.
November 23, 2009
GOLF PLUS will next appear in the Dec. 14 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.