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PGA Tour Executive Orender Chosen WNBA President

The former professional basketball player has worked for the tour for 17 years. She was the league's top choice, NBA's Stern says.

February 16, 2005|Mike Terry | Times Staff Writer

PGA Tour executive Donna Orender was appointed president of the WNBA on Tuesday, replacing Val Ackerman, who resigned in October.

Orender, who takes over in April, has spent the last 17 years with the PGA Tour. Her current post, which she has held since 2001, is senior vice president for strategic development.

"I am absolutely thrilled to be part of this organization, driven by the belief in the talent and value of women's athletics and sports, and specifically the WNBA," Orender said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

"To come home to a sport which gave me life opportunities, teaching me discipline and focus ... I can give back to the sport that allowed me to excel in my life."

Orender's hiring ended a four-month search for Ackerman's successor. NBA Commissioner David Stern said Orender was the selection committee's top choice.

"She was our gem when we talked about who was out there," Stern said.

"We thought she would be the ideal catch. She had played the game at its highest levels, had done work with the NBA, and got recognized as an expert in our business with regards to television, marketing, etc. She was our No. 1 choice, and we approached her."

Orender was an All-American guard for the team at Queens College of New York, and played in the Women's Professional Basketball League, the first American women's professional basketball league, which operated from 1978 to 1981.

Orender, then Donna Geils, played for the New York Stars, New Jersey Gems and the Chicago Hustle. Her best season was with New Jersey in 1980, when she averaged 18.8 points and made the all-star team.

In her career with the league, Orender played 93 games and averaged 13 points.

She has spent her career with the PGA Tour handling the worldwide management of the tour's television production, advertising, brand management and integration. She was also responsible for the tour's new media and Internet business.

Orender has also worked as a television producer for ABC Sports.

Praise for Orender's hiring came from the golf and basketball worlds.

"She's an incredibly hard worker, I know that," golfer Tiger Woods said. "She's really dedicated to her job. I've had dinner with her and her husband a bunch of times, so I know her real well. I think she'll do an amazing job and put in the hours."

WNBA and college basketball analyst Ann Meyers Drysdale, a teammate of Orender in New Jersey, said "with Donna's love for the game and her corporate background, she'll have great ideas on where we're going to take the league."

Orender is married to M.G. Orender, owner and partner of Hampton Golf Inc., a course development firm in Florida. She has four children: twin boys Jacob and Zachary, and stepchildren Morgan and Colleen.

Times staff writer Thomas Bonk contributed to this report.

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