New LPGA commissioner faces challenges with a tour that’s getting stronger

·3 min read

The resume of Mollie Marcoux Samaan seems to check all of the boxes for what the LPGA was looking for in its new commissioner.

As the athletic director at Princeton, Marcoux Samaan certainly has the administrative background that a commissioner in a major sport needs. She played hockey and soccer collegiately, so she likely understands the challenges of women in sports. As a solid amateur golfer herself, she has a grasp of the game and what it takes to play well.

Perhaps the only surprise is that Marcoux Samaan wasn’t a bigger name in the golf world, but some people with higher golf profiles pulled themselves out of contention for the job in the last month.

Marcoux Samaan’s job will not be an easy one, and everyone has known that since Mike Whan announced he was leaving the LPGA. Whan did wonders for the women’s tour, and in a sense he leaves Marcoux Samaan a tour that is in much better shape than when he took over just more than 10 years ago.

Marcoux Samaan’s goal should not be to merely follow Whan and his path, but to blaze her own trail as the ninth LPGA commissioner and just the second woman to hold the job. The LPGA certainly faces issues, issues that even Whan couldn’t overcome despite his ability to build bridges and convince people that the LPGA was more relevant than most people believe.

What should be the main items Marcoux Samaan will focus on as she steps into the job? Here are a few strong possibilities:

Mollie Marcoux Samaan
Mollie Marcoux Samaan

Mollie Marcoux Samaan (Princeton Athletics)

Continuing the LPGA’s leadership efforts

“Mollie understands the power of golf to change the lives of girls and women,” the LPGA said in the statement announcing Marcoux Samaan’s hiring. “As a values-centered leader, she’s known for her skills in collaboration, managing through complexity and building a winning team culture.”

The LPGA has embraced the battle to encourage women and girls to take up the game and believes that gender should not be an obstacle in sports or life. Keeping that initiative alive will be a key to the growth of the tour. This is a story that has worked well for the LPGA.

The future of the ANA Inspiration

The LPGA’s first major of the year faces multiple issues beyond the fact it has been played twice without fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event is in the final year of All Nippon Airways’ current sponsorship deal, and securing that sponsorship or perhaps a new sponsor should ANA leave the event has to be priority No. 1.

But there is also the scheduling issue of the major championship being played the same week as the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, an event that seems to have captured the imagination of golf fans simply because it is played at the home of the Masters.

Whan said at this year’s ANA Inspiration that the tournament would probably move off the first week of April date eventually. Marcoux Samaan will have to deal with both issues for the Rancho Mirage tournament.

Improved television

If you want to see LPGA players get angry on social media, just put an LPGA broadcast on tape.

The LPGA will always get the short end of the stick when it comes to television, with network executives convinced the PGA Tour will always draw better ratings and with tours like the European Tour and PGA Tour Champions always fighting for time on Golf Channel. LPGA events are virtually non-existent on network television, except for championships controlled by the PGA of America or the USGA.

The LPGA will never have the television coverage that the PGA Tour does and shouldn’t really even try. But improving the television presence of the tour would be one way to get the LPGA’s message across to fans, and it ought to be a priority for the incoming commissioner.

Larry Bohannan is the golf writer for The Desert Sun, part of the USA Today Network. He can be reached at (760) 778-4633 or larry.bohannan@desertsun.com. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @Larry_Bohannan.