For example, Whan worked with KPMG and the P.G.A. of America to rebrand and revitalize one of the five major women's championships, with the inaugural KPMG Women's P.G.A. Championship at Westchester Country Club in 2015. It was the first L.P.G.A. event to include a women's leadership summit, and more than a dozen such events are now associated with tournaments throughout the calendar.
"It completely changed the way Mike sold to sponsors," said Shawn Quill, KPMG's general manager responsible for sports sponsorship. “He embraced what we were doing, and it completely changed what the value proposition was for the L.P.G.A. Tour.
Players say Whan's impact was not limited to its relationship with the tour's sponsors. The players, both current and retired, felt a connection with their fast-speaking, self-deprecating self. He created many catchy nicknames – Olson was & # 39; headband & # 39; because of her fondness for wearing the accessory as a rookie – and he was constantly writing thank-you notes.
What the players kept in mind as he deftly led the Tour through the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, publicly lobbying sponsors to pay their athletes even if they didn't participate in the contractually required number of tournaments for the year. There was no reduction in wallets for the 18 events played, and each tournament sponsor will return in 2021. When tournaments resumed, the safety protocols yielded only 42 positive coronavirus tests out of approximately 7,200 given during the year.
Communication and transparency were the two words players used repeatedly to describe Whan's tenure, which has had a personal touch that they say will be sorely missed.
Tour veteran Christina Kim recalled that when Whan was first hired, she played in an event in South Korea. At 3am her phone started ringing like crazy. Finally she sent a text message saying “Who are you? Please don't call me again. Whan replied that he was the new commissioner and wanted to say hello, so Kim got up and called back to start a warm relationship.
“He provided us with the knowledge we needed to know where the Tour was and where the Tour was going, ”said Kim.“ He gave us the ability to not only believe in his desires and wants and ability for the LPGA, but he made us believe we mattered. ”