The IX: Golf Thursday with Sarah Kellam, October 29, 2020
'There’s no way for this game to get bigger by just being more and more male' — Interview: Keely Levins — Must-click women's golf links
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We Whan More!
It’s no secret that LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan is adored by the players, and he’s done wonders for the tour in terms of garnering support and sponsorship dollars.
But, it was last week during the first round of the LPGA’s Drive On Championship-Reynolds Lake Oconee that Commissioner Whan stepped to the plate, grabbing a microphone, and acting as an on-course commentator for the Golf Channel broadcast. It was the first time I’ve ever seen this happen and, to be honest, I loved it.
Whan, who lives in the area, provided great insight about the golf course, and his player interviews with Mel Reid, Stacy Lewis, and Danielle Kang were both insightful and hilarious. He effortlessly bantered with Tom Abbott and wasn’t afraid to occasionally toss in a joke or two.
“That’s the first time I’ve been nervous in my job in a while,” said Whan when asked about his experience. “I mean I’ve been bad in my job throughout the last 12 years but I don’t think I’ve been that nervous. I honestly didn’t know I was gonna do that until I got to the golf course that day so to say there was any prep time involved would be a lie.”
He seemed totally comfortable with mic in hand and, despite not finding out until the day of that he was slated to commentate, the nerves didn’t show in the slightest. But what it showed me more than anything was how invested Whan is in the product that is the LPGA Tour.
It takes a lot of guts to do on-course commentary; you’re putting yourself and your knowledge of golf on the line to either be praised or laughed at depending on how you do. It’s a job that requires a lot of vulnerability and it said a lot to me that Whan was willing to step out of his comfort zone in an attempt to encourage viewers to watch the broadcast. He was eager to put himself out there for the product and, not only was it fun and enjoyable to watch, it highlighted his dedication to women’s golf and the LPGA.
Unsurprisingly, Whan is incredibly outspoken about the disparities between men’s and women’s golf and isn’t afraid to tell it like it is when it comes to what needs to happen in order to grow the game. He knows that the LPGA Tour receives less attention as the PGA Tour and understands that golf really needs the women’s game to flourish in order to keep up interest.
“There’s no way for this game to get bigger by just being more and more male,” says Whan. “The only way we’re going to make this game truly a global game is to bring the other half of the world in.”
However, the best way to do that is by increasing viewership and support and, by taking a risk and picking up that microphone, Whan showed that he’s willing to put in the work. That he’s glad to do whatever it takes to draw attention to the LPGA.
It’s not that other leaders of other sports leagues aren’t willing to do the same, but rather that Mike aggressively goes to bat for his tour each and every week and is unafraid to speak the truth about what needs to change to make golf more inclusive across all genders. He fights as hard as he can for his players and colleagues simply because he believes in and is passionate about women’s golf.
“It’s frustrating, but I like being an underdog,” Whan told The IX in an interview. “I like the fact that people tell me it’s never gonna happen because those are the same people that told us that we’d never be televised all around the world. Those are the same people that told us we’d never be on network TV, that we’d never double the size of purses. I mean, all those people that say never are just wrong.”
Thus, while you may have enjoyed seeing Commissioner Whan commentating on-course last week, recognize the effort that he’s putting in to encourage support for the LPGA Tour. Truly examine the work he’s doing and see the impact that has been made and will continue to be made while he is commissioner.
Root for Mike Whan. Because the women’s game has no better advocate.
This week in women’s golf
(Reminder: First: the underlined words are the links. Second: CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. ESPECIALLY NOW, as newsrooms are forced to make difficult choices. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me! email@example.com.)
Is another long break ahead for the LPGA with the cancelation of the Australian championships? (via Golfweek)
This LPGA apprentice played 200 holes of golf for breast cancer research. (via Golfweek)
Commissioner Mike Whan acted as an on-course reporter last week. (via Golfweek)
Bianca Pagdanganan in contention again at LPGA Drive On Championship-Reynolds Lake Oconee. (via LPGA.com)
Ron Sirak on Ally McDonald’s first win on the LPGA Tour. (via LPGA.com)
Women’s All-Pro Tour to host two week event at World Golf Village. (via Golfweek)
How to increase mobility and improve your game. (via Golf.com)
More on Mike Whan’s on-course reporting. (via Golf Digest)
U.S. Women’s Amateur champion takes home AJGA honors. (via Golfweek)
Arizona State women’s golf is hosting three events this spring. (via Golfweek)
Ever wonder what it would be like to work with your significant other? LPGA players and their spouse caddies clue you in. (via Golfweek)
Oregon women’s golf assistant shoots 58 in collegiate fundraiser. (via Golfweek)
Ally McDonald gets birthday gift of her life with win at LPGA Drive On Championship-Reynolds Lake Oconee. (via Golfweek)
Suzy Whaley finishes her time as PGA of America president. (via Golfweek)
How will Michelle Wie balance being a new mom and playing in the U.S. Women’s Open? (via Golfweek)
Bryson isn’t the only long hitter making waves. This LPGA Tour rookie hits it far too! (via Golf Digest)
Ally McDonald cards first LPGA Tour win. (via LPGA.com)
More on Ally McDonald’s faith and family. (via LPGA.com)
Watch to see how well Danielle Kang and her caddie know each other in this edition of The Perfect Match. (via Golf.com)
How to use an alignment rod to get better. (via Golf.com)
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Interview with Keely Levins of the Local Knowledge podcast
How did you get into golf media and how long have you been working with Golf Digest?
I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, but during my senior year of college, one of my brother’s former teammates reached out and said I should apply to Golf Digest’s internship program. He’d been working at Golf Digest for a few years. I was an English major and played golf and cross-country skied through college, so the idea of being a sportswriter sounded like it’d be a good fit. Luckily, I got the internship, and started a couple weeks after I graduated from Middlebury in 2013. My second day of work was hopping on a train to go to a U.S. Open practice round at Merion. I immediately knew I’d made the right call in bailing on a potential legal career.
What goes into producing a podcast like Local Knowledge?
It’s a lot of editing. With a written piece, you’ll research and interview, then write, go back and forth with your editor and land on a final product to publish. But with a podcast, you research and interview, write, go back and forth on the script, feel like it’s in a good spot and then take the next step of hearing it all cut together. Once you hear it, the story might actually not sound as good as it was as a written piece. Then you’re back to editing again. It can take several rounds of editing for it to sound right. Luckily, I have our producer, Greg, to put all of the audio together and my editor, Sam, to go back and forth with on edits. Creating something for people to hear is different than creating something for people to read, and I’ve been enjoying the process of it.
What inspired you to release “The bootstrapping life of an LPGA Tour player” episode that came out on October 12th?
I was watching the ANA Inspiration and heard about Janet Lin having purchased her irons prior to the event, and then I watched golf Twitter ignite over it. The situation was pretty convoluted, but what I came with from that situation was that people cared about the bigger issue of whether or not the finances of being on the LPGA Tour are fair. I was excited that there was energy behind the topic. So, I decided to continue, expand, and add to the conversation with a podcast that looked at the whole picture of what the finances are like for an average LPGA Tour player.
Do you have a favorite story or subject that you’ve gotten to cover during your time at Golf Digest?
A couple years ago I did a story with a group of women who were all the first from their countries to have earned an LPGA Tour card – I loved getting to hear about their experiences in golf from places where golf, especially women’s golf, isn’t as established as it is here in the states. I’m lucky to have the opportunity to tell stories about golf that people wouldn’t otherwise hear about, so I like doing that as much as possible.
I’ve always been interested in sports psychology, so getting access to athletes on tour and figuring out how their competitive minds work is one of my favorite parts of this job. One that stands out is from this year, when I got to interview Lorena Ochoa. She’s kept herself out of the spotlight since retiring a decade ago, which made it even more special to get to talk to her. My 19 year old self would’ve fallen over if you told her she’d be interviewing Lorena. I don’t get too nervous for interviews, but my hands were shaking when I picked up the phone for that one.
Your Instagram shows, in addition to golf, you definitely have a love of skiing. Which sport is harder?
I’ve loved cross-country skiing as far back as my memory goes. The cardiovascular demands are incredibly hard – something I’ve come to appreciate now that I’m not training or competing anymore. But personally, I’ve found golf to be a harder sport because of what it can do to you mentally. In skiing, even if I had a bad race, I could find solace in knowing that I went as hard as I could, and then move on from it. In golf, you can be feeling really comfortable, completely in control, and then have your game fall apart in the middle of a round for seemingly no reason at all. How do you make sense of that? How do you move on from that and tee it up again with confidence? For me, that’s what makes golf so hard, but it’s also what makes golf endlessly intriguing.