Daytona Beach, United States: LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan is to be honoured as the Sports Executive of the Year at the sixth annual Cynopsis Sports Media Awards in New York.
Whan, who took over as the eighth commissioner of the Ladies Professional Golf Association on January 4, 2010, will receive the Vision Award during a breakfast function at the New York Athletic Club.
“Thank you for the recognition of the great work at LPGA,” said Whan. “This is an award to my team not just me. When you look at the team we have at the LPGA I’ve surrounded myself with people that can always have the ball in their hands.”
Chris Pursell, Head of Content for Cynopsis Sports, said: “In selecting the honoree, we look at the previous season and examine ratings, new sponsor deals, media partnerships, new initiatives, growth and so on. For us, the LPGA really hit the mark on all of these fronts during the past year.”
During his seven years at the helm of the LPGA, Whan has guided the organisation past the end of a global economic downturn and put the LPGA Tour on a solid financial footing by enhancing business relationships, growing the tournament schedule worldwide, maximising fan experience and increasing exposure for the entire membership.
With his big-picture thinking, strong marketing skills and bold risk-taking, Whan has increased the number of LPGA events from 23 to 34 since 2011 while television ratings have steadily risen. For the first time, coverage hours surpassed 400 hours last year.
Impressive growth has been achieved over the past 12 months with the total LPGA Tour purse up US$4.4 million over 2016 and four new tournaments have been added for this season – in New Zealand, Scotland, Green Bay and Indianapolis.
Eleven of 30 returning events this year feature increased prize money and four of the five Majors have bigger purses, including a record US$5 million up for grabs at the US Women’s Open conducted by the USGA.
Whan’s embrace of the global make-up of the Tour resulted last year in 18 different winners from 12 countries, and each of the five Majors in 2016 was won by a player from a different nation.
The LPGA Tour now caters to fans in 235 countries via its website and boasts television partners in 175 countries. The five major championships this season will be available to more than 500 million TV households around the world.
Whan’s tenure has also led to a strong youth surge – the average age of LPGA Tour winners in 2016 was 22.3 while more than 70 per cent of champions last year were under the age of 24. That youth surge is also apparent at grass-roots level with the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf programme having increased its reach from 4,500 girls in 2010 to 60,000 girls in 2016, more than a 1,000 per cent rise.
The Cynopsis Sports Media Awards cover the intersection of sports, media, marketing, technology and fans and they honour the top sports-related programming, advertising, public relations and marketing campaigns, as well as the individuals who drive the industry’s success.
Past winners of the Vision Award include NASCAR Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Brian France (2014), National Hockey League supremo Gary Bettman (2015) and Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber (2016).