USGA turns to respected Whan to fill chief executive vacancy
Mike Whan, the long-time commissioner of women’s golf’s LPGA, has been named as the new chief executive of the United States Golf Association.
The 56-year-old Whan will take up his new role this summer, succeeding Mike Davis whose upcoming departure was announced last September.
Whan has spent the last 11 years driving the growth of the LPGA, but it was announced last month that, in a surprise move, he would be stepping down from the top women’s tour.
The USGA is the governing body for golf in the sport’s leading market, and organises major tournaments including the US Open and US Women’s Open.
As the eighth lead executive in the history of the association, Whan will responsible for heading up all aspects of its operations, including its core functions, essential programmes and human and financial resources, and represent the USGA on various national and international boards.
Whan said on Wednesday: “As someone who grew up loving this game, I have always had huge respect for the USGA and its role in leading our sport. The game has given me so much throughout my life, both personally and professionally. I know I have a lot to learn, but I’m truly excited about this role, as it gives me the opportunity to not only give back to the game, but to also work hard to leave it stronger.”
Since joining the LPGA in 2010, Whan is credited with having played a major role in increasing the number of tournaments from 24 to 34, total prize money from $41.4 million to $76.5 million, and television hours from 125 hours per season to more than 500 hours.
The business also includes the developmental Symetra Tour, and, in 2019, the LPGA formed a joint venture with the Ladies European Tour to help drive the growth of women’s professional golf on the other side of the Atlantic.
Whan began his career at consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble in 1987 and rose to director of marketing for oral care before moving into the sports industry, with roles at prominent equipment brands Wilson Sporting Goods and golf's TaylorMade.
He was president and chief executive of Mission Hockey, an ice hockey equipment company, from 2002 until joining the LPGA in 2009.
USGA president Stu Francis, who oversaw the recruitment process for a new chief executive, said: “Mike Whan is a proven, successful and transformative leader, not only in the golf industry but throughout his entire career. He has shown a unique ability to understand how the environment is changing in global golf and how to quickly and thoughtfully adapt an organisation to meet those changes.
“Importantly, Mike is already a trusted peer for so many key stakeholders in the industry, and his existing relationships will not only help the USGA, but will also help advance the game.”
Davis is leaving the USGA to pursue a lifelong passion for golf design at Fazio & Davis Golf Design, a new venture he is launching in partnership with Tom Fazio II.
Davis joined the USGA back in 1990 and was appointed its seventh executive director in 2011, before transitioning to become its first chief executive in 2016 after an organisational shake-up.
The LPGA has yet to appoint its next commissioner, saying in January that it was establishing a selection and transition committee to handle the process and would look at candidates both inside and outside the organisation.