NAPLES, FLORIDA | Moments after the LPGA Tour released its 2022 schedule – 34 events with $85.7 million in total prize money, the richest in women’s golf history – new LPGA Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan sat down a handful of media for her first State-of-the-LPGA roundtable where she gave a clearer view of her processes and priorities for the near-term.
“I think that the LPGA is in an amazingly strong position, but I also feel there's a huge opportunity for growth,” Marcoux Samaan said. “This is our time. The momentum is with us. And we think there's even more growth to come in so many different areas.”
The commissioner admitted to being about 75 days into her 100-day strategic development period, a time when she is listening, learning and crafting the direction for the oldest professional league in women’s sports.
“We're a professional sports organization that has the very best players in the world,” Marcoux Samaan said. “But we are also very intentional with our work around spreading the game to those who might not otherwise have that opportunity, particularly to young girls and women around the world, through our Foundation.
“The combination of our Foundation work and the Tour allows us to have a huge impact through sports, which I think all sports organizations aim to do. But I think we have the ability, through the combination of the Foundation and the Tour, to do that in a unique way.
“I think our value proposition is beyond the commercial value for our partners. I think the commercial value is really strong. But when you combine it with our actual values and our intentionality around changing the world, I think we have this unique opportunity to continue to partner with the biggest brands in the world, which I think we're seeing on a daily basis. More and more global companies are investing in us in a pretty powerful way.”
She then made some internal observations, saying, “The LPGA is really a team. I mean, that sounds like a cliché, but it is the power of these partnerships that make us special. I think if you look around the landscape, less than 10% of sponsorships are allocated to women's sports. Our partners understand that needs to change. And they're all in with the LPGA.”
She spoke passionately about the future of televised LPGA Tour events and the social and economic factors that have led to the purse increases in nine events for 2022, including the CME Group Tour Championship that will jump to $7 million total with $2 million going to the winner, the largest check in women’s golf. But it was Marcoux Samaan’s big-picture view of the future that made everyone who heard her nod and smile and leave the gathering with a pep in the step.
“I think there are many more people who want to invest in the LPGA,” the commissioner said. “And we need to go out there and tell them about what we do and get that word out more broadly. I think investing in (our) people will allow us to spread the word and spread the engagement with our product. We have an amazing staff. They work seven days a week and are completely passionate about what they do. But we're limited by the number of bodies we have, just in terms of growing our partnerships.”
She hopes to grow the staff through partner engagement. But don’t expect growth for growth’s sake. As an organization, the LPGA is attractive because of its nimbleness: no hierarchy or layers of bureaucracy. Dealing with the organization is like dealing with a family. From the players to the teachers in the LPGA Professionals organization, to the Foundation, Girls’ Golf and all of the partners, everyone has a sense of being on this journey together. Just less than three months into her tenure as commissioner, Marcoux Samaan understands that culture and hopes to enhance it.
“I think the value is that these (players) are the best in the world, so the world can see that women can aspire to greatness through resilience, hard work, dedication, and the skill that they have,” the commissioner said. “For example, within the world of pay equity, I think we show the world that talent can produce tremendous success.
“Our partners want to align with us because we are about empowering women and showing true leaders in the world. So, I think that value proposition is really strong for our partners. They can show their own company values through the work that we do.
“I think the other thing is that sports build communities and inspire leaders. That's the value proposition. By putting the best in the world out there, I hope that we will inspire young girls to play golf at the highest level, but really young girls to know that they can do anything that they want.”