Mollie Marcoux Samaan started work as the ninth commissioner of the LPGA on Monday. On the drive from her rental home in Winter Park, Florida to the headquarters in Daytona Beach, she texted her predecessor Mike Whan to say she was on her way.
“You will hate the commute,” Whan said to her, “but you will love the people and you will love the job.”
IMG and their new tour family sent bouquets of flowers to brighten up the office. She had a box of family photos in the car. Decorating isn’t exactly a priority for Marcoux Samaan, who created a 100-day plan that would essentially end when the tour finishes its 2021 season in Naples, Florida. Phase I consists of listening and learning.
Marcoux Samaan, who was appointed commissioner in late May, met with members of the press on Thursday and while she did not provide specific details on future plans, she shared a passion for growing the consumer base from a marketing perspective.
“We have amazing stories to tell,” she said, “and I think more of the world should know these stories and know our great athletes.”
For the past two months, Marcoux Samaan has left her role as Princeton Sports Director and found a new place to live with her husband, three children – Maddie, 18, Catie, 15 and Drew, 12 – and a dog to live close to the winter park golf course. She plans to make the Solheim Cup the first official event she will attend as a commissioner. From there, Marcoux Samaan said she will attend all remaining events of the LPGA 2021 plan.
Golfweek met with Marcoux Samaan in their new corner office on Thursday. Here are excerpts from this conversation:
Tell me about your family
My husband is Andreas. He’s a lawyer and has done a lot of corporate things, but he teams up with a client he has had for years and they set up a venture capital fund in September.
I have an 18 year old daughter who graduated from high school but she is doing a PG (Post Graduate) year at the same school. She went to Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, which is a boarding school, but she was a day student. She is an ice hockey player and a very committed student. She is involved in ice hockey at Williams College, but needs a year back because of COVID … and she becomes a boarding school student. She’s a little too serious. I’m like go and have fun. Not too much fun, but good fun.
And then I have a junior in high school, a girl who started school today and you can imagine how excited she is to be going to a new school in her junior year, but she is great and she is going to Lake Highland Prep. It started this morning. Her uniform is too big for her and her brother was late and all that, but she’ll be fine. She plays soccer and lacrosse, is a committed little student and a great child. She told me a little bit about the move, but she was largely positive.
Then I have a 12 year old son who is a completely different company. Throughout that transition, part of it was like two jobs and the house and schools and the move, but what people didn’t know was that I was always waiting for him to finish the school year. He had somehow decided he was done, but school hadn’t decided he was done. Someone asked and I said my hardest job was getting them to do their homework.
But he did everything and made it. He’s really a simple boy, optimistic, a great athlete. He’s fine. As long as they have lacrosse, as long as they have golf, soccer, hockey.
So will he be on the golf team?
He plays golf, it’s not his main sport. We play together as a family, but he never really competed. But he decided he wanted to try it out for the golf team and, in typical workmother fashion, I didn’t get all of the forms on time, so he’s going to give it a try next week.
First official working day. Thank you @LPGA HQ for the warm welcome. Ready to work with our remarkable team of players, people and partners! #DIVING #DriveOn pic.twitter.com/SV8UD8rg06
– Mollie Marcoux Samaan (@ mmarcoux91) August 9, 2021
I spoke to Mike a while ago and he indicated that you guys talked a lot. How many times have you spoken by phone or text message?
We had two long meetings, spent a full morning with him in the USGA office, and he came down and spent a couple of hours. Three or four phone calls and a fair amount of texts. It’s really more like anything you need.
The Senior Executive Leadership Team, I’ve been on that call every week since the announcement. Just listen properly at first and then be able to lead this meeting now. That gave most of the context.
I know you have competed in a few tournaments so far, and I’m sure you have had other conversations with check writers as well. I wonder what was the most impactful or informative conversation you had with a check writer about how this all goes?
I don’t necessarily want to highlight anyone … for example, when I was listening to KPMG CEO Paul Knopp, having lunch with him and his senior team and hearing their passion for what we do, but then somehow he had to spontaneously hand over Nelly Korda the trophy and
his words were very warm … just seeing how much it meant to him. The same goes for Jim Fitterling at Dow. He was there every day. That’s the other thing, these CEOs are at the events all week, getting involved in all areas. Again, not to highlight anyone, I had a great chat with Terry Duffy at CME and the great passion he shows.
Mostly just to tell god these top level CEOs really love the LPGA and what it says and what it does and how they use it.
When Stacy Lewis was the # 1 player in the world, the tour developed many strong partnerships from that time … what do you think Nelly’s influence could be on the tour and how do you think you can capitalize on this moment? ?
Look, she’s a great ambassador. One of the things that you notice when you see her is, oh my god, this is an athlete. I saw a picture when I gave her the bib (# 1) and she’s about a foot taller than me and I’m not necessarily short. She just has a tremendous presence and athleticism and she’s just a great Presenter. I think our stars really matter, our entire membership base really matters.
After @NellyKorda becomes @ROLEX No. 1, her caddy receives the green start number at @DowGLBI from the new LPGA inspector @ mmarcoux91. pic.twitter.com/ZZxpCTjGua
– LPGA (@LPGA) July 14, 2021
In a previous conversation you talked about the importance of trying to narrow the financial gap between men and women. Have you thought more about how to do that?
It’s not an easy solution. If it was a simple solution, someone would have done it a long time ago. Two things, one is to know that this is some kind of goal and to put it at the center and how to get there. And then just see what goes into it. What do we need to do across the ecosystem to get to this point? A look at all of our tournaments, growing partnerships, growing relationships and a look at our full range of tournaments. I think it’s like a turning point. The more we can expose our athletes to the world, the more interest there is, the more the rising tide lifts all boats. I think the focus is on getting known and building an audience that is even bigger than the audience we have. It’s the turning point right now for the world to see how great our athletes are.
When you took a sip of that Coke, it reminded me of the heavy caffeinated Mike Whan. Do you get close to him in the amount of Diet Cokes a day?
I don’t know how much he drank, but I have a little problem with it. When Mike came to Princeton, we met at the, we built this performance center on the Princeton golf course with bays and a simulator area. We have a fridge and I thought I need to fill it up, what does it eat? It’s like all you need is Coke Zero and a couple of nuts.
They fit right in …
He would have just left his Coke Zero.
I know you were in the US Senior Women’s Open. What’s the best advice you’ve got from one of the veteran players or a meaningful conversation you’ve had?
I’ve been friends with Jane Geddes for a number of years. Gigi, her wife, worked with me at Chelsea Piers. We had children in daycare together. Your twins were best friends with my son. Jane gave me a lot of great insights – but I also met Dottie Pepper in person. You and I played golf together as kids. We met in New York and she went down and gave me great context.
I also had a great chat with Nancy Lopez and met Annika … I think just hearing Nancy Lopez’s continued passion for the LPGA … They grew up together, they toured together … it’s kind of a college. This loyalty and enthusiasm. It wasn’t a job, it was a family.
Just keep doing that. I think hearing from all the players how important it is that as we grow we maintain the same gratitude and kind of dedication that we act as a founder. I love this sentence and I want to keep it.
Have you figured out that big board yet (what is the old dry-erase board with the 2021 and 2022 schedules)?
That is interesting. That has to be the crux of the matter … I guess it is. I think that’s the great advice Mike gave me. I asked him the question you just asked me … Where did you spend a lot of time?
Our job is to give our women these opportunities to make a living through golf and to live their dreams through golf. This is not my writing. I have it on my desk. But our team is really good and our partners are good, but that definitely drives the engine.
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