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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Mike Whan Is Revolutionizing Golf in the United States

This week, the United States Open will be held once again at the Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. The Country Club was one of the five clubs that founded the United States Golf Association. This will be the club’s fourth time competing in a U.S. Open. Its inaugural competition, which took place in 1913 and was won by a 20-year-old amateur, has cemented its place in sports mythology.

In addition, the club has played host to multiple tournaments for the United States Amateur and United States Women’s Amateur as well as the Ryder Cup. Having been established in the 19th century, it has a long history.

However, the United States Golf Association, which selects the clubs and conducts the U.S. Open, has made a change for this year’s tournament. Open and thirteen other national championships each year, has a new chief executive who has built a reputation for being the antithesis of a traditionalist. This executive will be in charge of the organisation going forward. According to the lingo of the world of corporate marketing where Mike Whan rose through the ranks as an executive, he is a changemaker.

Whan served as the commissioner of the Ladies Professional Golf Association for 11 years before becoming a member of the United States Golf Association in 2017. During his tenure, the LPGA was transformed from a struggling U.S.-based entity into a thriving global tour with more events and more prize money. Even though the United States Golf Association is subject to criticism, just like any other governing body, it is responsible for the creation of a highly profitable event in the United States. Open, the proceeds of which finance the vast majority of the organization’s other tournaments as well as projects concerning the preservation of turf grass and water.

The United States Golf Association looks even more impressive when compared to the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour, whose playing privileges have long been the goal of professional golfers, is fending off an attack on its status by the new LIV Golf Invitational Series, which is backed by Saudi Arabia and has lured away many players. The PGA Tour has long been the goal of professional golfers.

Add to that the fact that interest in golf among recreational players is still riding high after the pandemic, and you have a perfect storm. What exactly is it that Whan needs to fix if it’s not broken, as the old saying goes?

Davis was Whan’s predecessor. During his 31 years of service to the United States Golf Association, Davis held the positions of executive director and later chief executive. He advocated for the modification of course configurations and experimented with new approaches, such as varying the height of the rough and providing public courses, such as Erin Hills in Wisconsin and Chambers Bay in Washington, with the opportunity to host a U.S. Open. Nevertheless, when Whan joined the team after the United States Open, several senior U.S.G.A. executives left, with the chief commercial officer leaving on Whan’s first day in charge and the chief brand officer leaving approximately a month later. Both of these departures occurred shortly after Whan took control of the organisation.

He retold a tale that has been heard many times about Jason Gore, a former player on the PGA Tour who is now the senior director of player relations at the United States Golf Association. He said that the place where the players won their U.S. Gore informed him that this opens things up. While the men’s side is set with challenging competitions for the next decade, including Oakmont, Shinnecock Hills, Pebble Beach, and Merion, Whan has been working to secure similarly famous locations for the United States. Riviera, Merion, Pinehurst, and Pebble Beach will all play host to the Women’s Open this year.

Investments made by the USGA have allowed for the protection of these locations. The organisation is now working on constructing a second headquarters in Pinehurst. At Pebble Beach, they are currently constructing a player pavilion that will be permanent and can be used for other events on the course. When looking at things from a more long-term perspective, the organisation has made changes to the host location, and in the past it has erected and dismantled various buildings.

These efforts are designed to make things simpler for the United States of America. Open, a competition that requires a massive amount of planning and organisation and keeps courses closed for several months, continues to be played year after year. But it’s also to have sites host other events and work toward his goal of advancing other initiatives, so that’s another reason why.

Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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