The IX: Golf Thursday with Sarah Kellam, January 7, 2021

Whan stepping down, Presidential Medals of Freedom kicking off 2021 for women's golf— Interview with Emma Talley — Must-click women's golf links

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History already being made in 2021

2021 is starting with a bang for the LPGA Tour in a myriad of ways. 

With the announcement yesterday that Commissioner Mike Whan will be stepping down this year and the Presidential Medals of Freedom that are slated to be awarded to Annika Sorenstam and Babe Zaharias today, so much history has already happened and we are only seven days into a brand new year.

There’s a lot to unpack here with these happening in back-to-back days, so let’s start with the Mike Whan announcement. 

While I am FLOORED that this happened so soon into a new year, I had a feeling that Whan’s days at the LPGA were numbered. He’s done so much work for the Tour that we’ve now reached the ceiling for growth in the Whan era. 

From 24 events and $41.4 million in prize money in his first season with the LPGA Tour to 34 scheduled events and $76.45 million in purses for 2021, Commissioner Whan has helped this circuit make leaps and bounds in the last 11 years, effectively resurrecting it from the throes of ruin and solidifying its importance to not just the golf world, but the sports world as a whole. 

His passion for engaging fans and viewers and his can-do attitude when presented with any new challenge or struggle has endeared him to the women’s golf community and has made Whan a celebrity among both his peers and the LPGA Tour players. Nancy Lopez said it best in a tweet about the commissioner: “He put on a skirt and became one of us!” 

That is my favorite thing about Mike Whan: he is all in all the time. Having the chance to hear him do an interview with Golf Channel at the CME Group Tour Championship, you can hear the zeal for women’s golf in his voice and the excitement with which he takes on each new challenge. 

It’s going to be a tough pill to swallow to see Commissioner Whan step down, but he gave the LPGA the best of himself, taking the organization from merely being on the radar of the golf world to giving them a seat at the table. It’s a shame to see him go, but women’s golf is better for him being a part of it. 

On to happier news. 

Today, if everything remains as planned, Babe Zaharias and Annika Sorenstam along with Gary Player will be awarded Presidential Medals of Freedom, one of the country’s highest civilian honors. The trio will join a list of 39 other athletes who have received the award, 4 of whom were golfers and, more significantly for Sorenstam and Zaharias, only 2 of whom were women. 

It’s obvious that the attention this brings to women’s golf is incredibly exciting and, as a huge fan of Annika Sorenstam, I am personally elated that she will be receiving this honor. 

However, I think it speaks volumes about the national respect that female athletics holds in the world of sports that these two women are only the third and fourth to receive recognition for their prowess in their respective sports and the impact they’ve had on their communities. 

Babe Zaharias singlehandedly defined what it means to be a world class athlete with her excellence across baseball, basketball, and track and field, in addition to her skill on the golf course. Not to mention, after being diagnosed with colon cancer in 1953 and still competing and winning numerous tournaments while battling the disease, she worked with the American Cancer Society as an advocate and raised awareness about the seriousness of the illness.

Annika Sorenstam is considered to be one of  the greatest women ever to play the game, with 72 LPGA Tour wins and 10 majors to her name and having carded the only 59 to ever be shot on the LPGA Tour. Her creation of the ANNIKA Foundation has provided young women at all levels golf opportunities while also teaching them about the importance of healthy lifestyles and equipping them with valuable skills to be used as they move through life.

I’m so glad that this pair is finally getting the recognition they deserve, but I wonder how long it will be before we see another female athlete having the medal placed around their neck. Surely the accomplishments of women like Serena Williams and Simone Biles will be honored in the future and I hope that it happens sooner rather than later.

For now though, it’s refreshing to me that we are highlighting the successes of female golfers on a national level and I’m excited that this history is being made. No matter what, Sorenstam and Zaharias receiving this distinction shows the value of female athletics to us as a society and that women matter and women being successful matters. It’s a resounding win for women’s sports.

Thus, 2021 is already historic for women’s golf and the LPGA Tour season hasn’t even begun yet. With 34 events on the docket, I know we are going to be treated to some great golf and, if the first seven days of the new year are any indication, it’s going to be an incredible ride. 

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!

Mike Whan is stepping down as the commissioner of the LPGA Tour. (via Golfweek)

After 11 successful years, Mike Whan is leaving the LPGA Tour. (via Golf Digest)

Whan is leaving the LPGA way better than he found it. (via

How the players are reacting to Mike Whan stepping away from the LPGA. (via Golfweek)

More social media reactions to the announcement that Mike Whan will no longer serve as commissioner of the LPGA Tour. (via

Read the letter that Mike Whan wrote to the LPGA to announce that he is leaving the organization. (via

More on Mike Whan’s decision to end his time as the LPGA Tour commissioner. (via

The LPGA will see the end of the Mike Whan era in 2021. (via

Sorenstam, Zaharias, and Player set to receive Presidential Medals of Freedom this Thursday. (via Golf Digest)

More on the three golfers who will be awarded Presidential Medals of Freedom this week. (via

Beth Ann Nichols caught up with Judy Rankin to get her thoughts about the upcoming 2021 LPGA Tour season. (via Golfweek)

There’s a lot to look forward to in women’s golf this year. (via Golfweek)

With 34 events scheduled, the 2021 LPGA Tour season that’s kicking off soon looks bright. (via

How the LPGA Tour handled the coronavirus pandemic and kept its players’ heath a priority. (via

No Laying Up releases a podcast featuring Lisa Cornwell speaking out against Golf Channel. (via Golfweek)

Curtis Cup preparations will begin in late January with 12 women having been invited to a practice session by the USGA. (via Golfweek)

More on the practice organized by the USGA for 12 potential members of the Curtis Cup team. (via Golf Digest)

LSU Tiger Latanna Stone captures Orlando Women’s International Amateur title. (via Golfweek)

Duke’s Gina Kim wins the Harder Hall Women’s Invitational. (via Golfweek)

Former Michigan State women’s golf coach Mary Fossum has passed away. (via Golfweek)

Haley Moore is victorious again at the first Longbow Cactus Cup Championship put on by the Cactus Tour. (via Golfweek)

Alan Shipnuck on why Sophia Popov’s win at the AIG Women’s Open is still blowing people’s minds. (via

Linn Grant uses social media to work on her golf game and here’s why. (via

There’s a gender-neutral amateur event slated to be played in the United Kingdom. (via

Tweet of the Week

Five at the IX: Emma Talley, LPGA Tour player

At what point in your life did you know you were going to be a professional golfer?

Once I started playing golf, I truly fell in love with the game. I remember when I was 12 years old my dad took me to an LPGA event in Nashville, TN. I was in absolute awe of them. After the day on our way home I told my dad I wanted to be a professional golfer. I remember he told me it will take a lot of sacrifices, but I will help you as much as you want.

What was it like competing on the LPGA Tour during the COVID-19 pandemic? Describe your experience.

We were so fortunate to play golf during a pandemic. Having our jobs, being able to play, and doing it in a safe way was truly amazing. I hope we provided some entertainment for people who were needing live sport. We truly missed the fans. I also missed just hanging out with all the players. I don’t think we are quite out of it yet either, but we will all be looking forward to it being over.

What is something you would like people to know about competing on the LPGA Tour and something you’d like people to know about yourself?

If they don’t know it already, it is the best talent of women’s golf in the world. I’m just a small town girl from Kentucky getting to play golf for a living. It is a dream come true. I just hope any girl who reads this knows they can do it too. It does take a lot of work and sacrifice, but it is all so worth it.

Who would you consider to be your closest friend(s) on Tour?

Honestly, I feel like I am friends with everyone on tour. I am pretty outgoing and love all the players and caddies on tour. I am lucky to have some lifelong friends out here too.

What are you looking forward to in the 2021 LPGA Tour season?

I had a rough golfing year in 2019. Obviously 2020 was different so my status didn’t change. I have my game back better than ever. I feel I have grown so much as a player and really looking forward to 2021. It is one big process and I am thankful for another year of doing what I love. I have several goals for the year starting with off-season prep. I have never loved the game more than I do right now. I am also fortunate to have a great team around me challenging me to get better every day.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By Sarah Kellam @sarahkellam, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by The IX Team