When Mollie Marcoux Samaan officially took the reigns as LPGA commissioner earlier this month, she knew she would have big shoes to fill, given the significant growth her predecessor, Mike Whan, oversaw during his 11-year tenure. But Samaan, the former athletic director at Princeton University, is more than up to the challenge.
“I think we’re very similar,” Samaan said of Whan in a recent interview. “I hope to be as strategic and as successful as he. From what I’ve seen, he had this great balance of being really strategic and getting a lot of things done, and having great ideas. But at the same time, being very much focused on the culture of the organization. And sometimes those things don’t go hand in hand. And what I really have been impressed by is that I think he did both of those things.”
After spending the last few months transitioning out of her role at Princeton and moving her family to the LPGA’s headquarters in Florida, Samaan hit the ground running with a 100-day plan, the beginning of which is designed primarily to familiarize herself with the LPGA’s players, events, teachers and staff, as well as the various ins and outs of an organization that is admittedly complex.
“I honestly think that part of my job, which is what I really love to do, is to be a support system for the entire ecosystem, to sort of use my platform and my role to help everyone else do their jobs better,” Samaan said. “So that leadership part is really fun, being the coach, if you will, of a larger organization. That feels real comfortable and something that I love doing.”
Samann already has plenty of support. She was unanimously elected to her new role by the LPGA’s Board of Directors, which includes tour stars Michelle Wie West and Lydia Ko. LPGA legend Juli Inkster was also part of the search committee. So what will the LPGA’s future look like under Samaan’s leadership? One thing that Samaan says she is looking forward to taking on is overseeing the best possible tournament schedule for the LPGA’s players.
“I think we’ll spend a lot of time on partnerships, sponsorships, spending a lot of time on our broadcasts and our technology,” she said. “I love the foundation work that we do. I love working with the amateurs. Obviously growing girls’ golf and working with our partners on that. It’s a complex job and there’s lots of things to do, and I think part of the strategic plan is to say, how do we prioritize things. I’d like to spend my whole life doing each one of them, but I think we need to pick and choose; but also the beauty of it is we have a team that does all of this and we have a great team, so my job is to figure out how to support them in what they do.”
Another priority for Samaan? Ensuring that her players are well taken care of in every sense — especially financially.
“I think that all the women on the tour should be able to make a really good living,” Samaan said. “They’re the best in the world. And so making sure that they have those opportunities, the tournament schedule, the purses, I think that’s all really critical that we need to keep working on.”
The upcoming Solheim Cup will be Samaan’s first official event as commissioner. While Samaan insists that she and Whan are different people with different leadership styles, it’s clear that they share two particular traits: passion and positivity.
“It wasn’t really a job for him, it was a way of life,” Samaan said of Whan’s tenure. “And I always think, ‘Don’t do something that you don’t care about. Don’t take a job unless you really believe in it.’ And that’s what I noticed from him from the very beginning was, this was not a job. This was sort of something he believed deeply in, and that’s why I’ve taken this job, just because I really believe in what we do, and I care a lot.”