DAYTONA, Fla. — Carolyn Bivens resigned as LPGA Tour commissioner Monday, bowing to pressure from players who were upset about the organization’s economic woes and her leadership.
Marsha Evans, a retired rear admiral in the Navy who also has led the American Red Cross and Girl Scouts of the USA, will take over as interim commissioner. She’ll serve until the LPGA board finds a replacement, which it hopes to do by the end of the year.
Bivens’ departure seemed increasingly likely after a group of players wrote a letter last week to the LPGA Tour’s board of directors calling for her to quit. Her uncertain status created a distraction over the weekend during the U.S. Women’s Open.
“We reached a point which made it difficult for Carolyn herself to see herself going forward and being able to lead in this environment,” board chairwoman Dawn Hudson said. “We had to change something.”
Hudson said Bivens’ resignation was a mutual decision between the former commissioner and the LPGA’s board of directors. She praised Bivens for helping the tour “think big” even as the economy worsened.
But Bivens’ four-year tenure also was plagued with difficulties and controversies.
The tour has lost seven tournaments since 2007, and last year Bivens was widely criticized when she proposed an English-only policy for tour players. It was never instituted. The LPGA includes 121 international players from 26 countries, including 45 from South Korea.
In October 2006, she was accused by officials of the now-defunct tour event near Atlantic City, N.J., of backing out on a promise to maintain a longtime event.
“I love the LPGA and have been proud to serve as its commissioner for the last four years. I am also proud of what the LPGA has accomplished during my tenure,” Bivens said in a statement Monday. “It is time to turn this organization over to someone who can build on the solid foundation we’ve established.”
Bivens’ supporters credited her with integrating another tour into the LPGA, securing ownership of the LPGA’s own major tournament, upgrading the quality of courses, increasing coverage of child care, implementing the first drug-testing program in professional golf and signing new television partnerships.
“Carolyn did a lot of great things. She tried to stand up for the LPGA, which no one has done in a long time,” said Juli Inkster, a tour veteran and member of the board. “I just think her delivery on the whole thing was not the best.”
Evans has limited experience in professional golf; she only began serving on the LPGA board this year and her only prior work was on an LPGA commissioner’s advisory council in 2007 and 2008.
AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson and AP Sports Writer Noah Trister contributed to this report.