Michael (Mike) Whan was announced as the new CEO of the United States Golf Association (USGA) in February 2021. He will be the eighth top executive in USGA history effective July 1st. Previously, he was the commissioner of the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association), one of the longest-running and most successful women’s sports organizations in the world. Whan assumed the leadership role on Jan. 4, 2010, with an eye toward enhancing existing business relationships, growing the tournament schedule, increasing exposure for players and maximizing the LPGA experience for fans.
Since celebrating his 10th year as Commissioner in 2019, Whan continues to lead a resurgence of the LPGA on all fronts, embracing the global makeup of the Tour and promoting the DRIVE ON new brand positioning that focuses on celebrating the LPGA’s 70-year track record of driving on to break barriers and provide opportunities for women. Drive On isn’t just rooted in golf, but it is so much bigger. It’s about that fire that burns inside you when you discover your passion. It’s about the motivating power of big dreams and the resolve to defy convention and stereotypes. It’s about finding the vision to see beyond what has already been done and to believe something greater is possible.
Whan oversaw strong renewal rates amongst title and marketing partners, developed new tournaments that showcase the world’s best players and drove huge increases in the LPGA’s television viewership. Not shy to embrace the global aspect of the LPGA, Whan has expanded playing opportunities throughout Asia while increasing the number of North American tournaments for the U.S.-based Tour. His “role reversal” concept challenges players and staff to think like tournament sponsors, a strategy which ensures that everyone plays a role in delivering value to those who financially support the Tour.
Under Whan’s leadership, the LPGA Tour’s playing schedule has soared from 23 to 34 events with innovative tournaments such as the Founders Cup; strategic partnerships like the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship; The Evian Championship, the LPGA’s fifth major; the unique eight-country UL International Crown; and the CME Group Tour Championship with its season-long Race to the CME Globe points competition that awards the winner with $1.5 million, the largest single prize in the history of women’s golf. As testament to Whan’s efforts, he was honored in April 2017 as Sports Executive of the Year at the sixth annual Cynopsis Sports Media Awards in New York.
In addition, under Whan, the developmental Symetra Tour – Road to the LPGA has also grown in schedule (+50%) and purse money (+100%). The LPGA’s Girls Golf program has more than 100,000 members by the end of 2019, up from 5,000 in 2010, and the LPGA’s Professionals division has its largest-ever membership and has now expanded into Asia and 15 countries worldwide. Now embracing all things global, the LPGA caters to fans in over 200 countries via the website and boasts television partners in 175 countries.
Whan developed a passion for golf at a young age, cutting greens and caddying to earn money. He attended Naperville Central High School in Naperville, Ill., for his freshman and sophomore years before transferring to Anderson High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. Whan graduated from Miami University of Ohio in 1987 and began his business career the same year at the Proctor and Gamble Company, rising through the ranks as a Brand Assistant, Brand Manager and eventually Director of Marketing, Oral Care, before pursuing his passion for sports.
In 1994-95, he served as a Vice President and General Manager at the Wilson Sporting Goods Company responsible for all aspects of the golf ball and glove business. He also managed the marketing department, two manufacturing facilities and the Research & Development division.
Whan joined the TaylorMade Golf Company as Vice President of Marketing in 1995. Over the course of his four-year tenure, he was promoted to Vice President, Sales and Marketing and eventually EVP/General Manager-North America for TaylorMade-Adidas Golf. In his role as General Manager, Whan’s business unit represented more than 70 percent of the company’s worldwide sales and profit.
Whan served as President/Chief Marketing Officer for Britesmile, Inc., from 1999-2002, before returning to sports as the President-CEO of Mission Hockey, a hockey equipment company. During his seven-year tenure in the hockey business, he restructured and redefined the company, then acquired Itech Sports to create Mission-Itech Hockey. When Whan finalized the sale of Mission-Itech Hockey, it commanded market share leadership in nine product categories, sales in more than 30 countries and had more than 50% of the National Hockey League (NHL) players using the brands.
He and his wife, Meg, and his children Austin, Wesley and Connor, will move to New Jersey from Lake Mary, Florida.