LPGA hires PGA Tour executive as CMO

Jon Podany was named chief marketing officer for the LPGA on Feb. 11.

Jon Podany was named chief marketing officer for the LPGA on Feb. 11.

Any new employee typically needs time to get comfortable with the boss.

Not so much with Jon Podany, who was named chief marketing officer for the LPGA on Feb. 11.

Podany, a longtime executive with the PGA Tour, knows commissioner Michael Whan from their days at Miami University in Ohio, where both were walk-on freshman quarterbacks in 1983. Neither would earn a varsity letter – “We both saw quickly that it was a crowded landscape,’’ Podany told Golfweek – but a strong connection was forged.

He’ll need that ability to maneuver through a persistent economic downturn and market the LPGA.

“Hopefully with my contacts and experience, I’ll be able to get some people interested in investing in the LPGA,’’ Podany said. “Sales will be an important part of my job.’’

At the LPGA, Podany will direct U.S. sales and business development, corporate marketing, television and digital media. The LPGA season begins next week with the Honda PTT LPGA Thailand tournament, followed the week after by the HSBC Women’s Champions tournament in Singapore.

Podany, 44, will work through the end of February at the PGA Tour, where he has risen to senior vice president of business development, and start at the LPGA in late March.

Podany was a candidate for LPGA commissioner in 2009 before Whan was appointed to replace Carolyn Bivens, who resigned under pressure in July after four stormy years that included an erosion of tournaments and sponsors.

Podany’s marketing savvy has proved to be "a significant contributor to the PGA Tour’s success over the past 15 years,’’ Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in a news release. "While we are sorry that Jon is leaving us, we are pleased he is staying in golf and with the opportunity he’ll have with the LPGA.’’

Podany will arrive at an LPGA tour that has only 24 events this season but a renewed sense of hope and direction. The Sybase Match Play Championship in May recently was added to the schedule. This week, a title sponsorship with Kia Motors for the first domestic event was announced. Podany plans to be on the West Coast in late March when the LPGA opens its U.S. schedule at Carlsbad, Calif.

“Jon will be an invaluable teammate and leader for the LPGA,’’ Whan said, “and I know his experience working with global corporations and love of the game will help us maintain the momentum and energy surrounding the LPGA.”

Podany has three school-age daughters, and all are athletes, though not golfers. He plays to a 9 handicap, on about 10-12 rounds per year. After having his right hip replaced two years ago, he opts for low-impact workouts such as biking and swimming to stay in shape. He plans to commute to LPGA headquarters in Daytona Beach for the foreseeable future.

Like Whan, Podany started his career in 1987 at Procter & Gamble, the Cincinnati-based consumer-products giant, eventually rising to brand manager. Podany joined the PGA Tour in 1995 as director of business development.

He plans to draw on those experiences in selling women's professional golf.

“The PGA Tour has a higher level of corporate sponsorship today,’’ Podany said. “That may be a function of it just being a bigger property to begin with. Perhaps there are some things that we do new . . . and different. I’ve never sat through a pitch (at the LPGA) on how it sells itself.’’

One thing that he knows with certainty is the ability of his former classmate, who once again is a teammate.

“Mike was the right guy for the job,’’ Podany said. “He had the CEO experience that I did not have. He demonstrated in the first six weeks on job that he is a leader. He will push the LPGA in the right direction.’’

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