Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lpga Commissioner Cites Improvement in Last 8 to 10 Years

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lpga Commissioner Cites Improvement in Last 8 to 10 Years

Article excerpt

St. Louis last month obtained a Ladies Professional Golf Association annual tournament, which will be called the Heartland Classic.

The inaugural Heartland Classic will be played Sept. 29-Oct. 2 at Forest Hills Country Club in Clarkson Valley.

Charles S. Mechem, LPGA commissioner, took part in the announcement and afterward engaged in a question-and-answer session on the state of the LPGA.

When he became commissioner in late 1990, Mechem set out to promote the growth and image of the tour.

He generally is credited with modernizing the LPGA in short order.

Mechem, 62, retired from Taft Broadcasting Corp. in 1990 after 24 years. His retirement was brief. The LPGA beckoned, and he jumped at the opportunity to be its leader.

His assessment of the LPGA going into 1994:

Q: How would you rate your product?

A: The quality is good. It has improved substantially in recent years.

Eight to 10 years ago, it would have been a fair criticism to say that the LPGA had eight to 10 great players and then dropped off the cliff.

The influx of so many talented American and foreign players has erased any criticisms.

You have a unique blend of players. There are the "active icons" - Nancy Lopez, Patty Sheehan, JoAnne Carner, Betsy King, players like that; younger players coming into their great years - Dottie Mochrie, Meg Mallon and many others; and an enormous, growing array of foreign players.

Q: How have you found the attitude among the players?

A: These young players are outgoing, affable and more sensitive toward the sponsors, who pay the bills, more so than any athletes I've ever seen.

The players used to worry too much about being eclipsed by the regular PGA Tour and the Senior PGA Tour. They don't anymore.

This has become an organization of professional women. A whole cottage industry has sprung up. You have various organizations of professional women active in golf, no longer intimidated by what was once a clearly male-dominated sport.

Q: What are some of the reasons you have been successful as LPGA commissioner?

A: I'm probably the first commissioner of the LPGA who didn't need the job. I wasn't building a resume. I wasn't looking to come in, make a quick impression and move to something bigger and better. If I wasn't doing this, I'd be happily retired.

Q: What pleases you the most about the LPGA's growth in recent years?

A: I'm most proud that we are now recognized as a legitimate equal partner in the golf world. We aren't irrelevant anymore.

Not to say that discrimination doesn't still exist. It hurts me terribly to know that there are still courses in this country that a great player like Betsy King cannot play because she's a woman.

Q: The LPGA has experienced some sponsorship problems. Recently, it was shook by embezzlement charges against two senior executives of Phar-Mor Inc. …

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