The Daily Whim

The Daily Whim

Sat. May 17, 2003

Two Balls or None

Two Balls or None – Maybe I’m just getting old. Maybe I’m a little out of touch. I’ve never heard of Annika Sorenstam before this week.

She’s apparently the best woman golfer walking the face of this Earth, the Tiger Woods of the LPGA, and this weekend, she’s dropping the “L” to play with the Big Boys. Yes, she’s earned millions in her career as a pro on the ladies tour, so it’s not as if she hasn’t had the opportunity to compete in her chosen field, like, for example, a woman stock car driver or a female field goal kicker. She’s done quite well for herself. However, it seems that’s not good enough, and now she wants to take on the men.

Why should I care? I don’t follow golf, and haven’t even played the game in 20 years. I guess it’s a matter of the way this is being presented. There is indeed a notable history of women athletes enduring great hardship to compete against men … usually because they had no other choice. This article, “For pioneers, it’s about the game, not beating the boys,“ details the stories of female jockeys, stock car drivers, football and baseball payers. They all had to endure heaping abuse from men just to have a chance to compete … at all, on any field.

But no one can claim “this is about the game.” Annika Sorenstam is able to play the game, and reap millions from it, without competing with men. So what is this about? Money: “Behind the scenes at this tournament, many powerful people are pulling for Sorenstam. Emotions aside, her game has put them in a position to make a whole lot of money. If she makes the cut, her paycheck will be tiny compared to the millions made by the tournament and television sponsors, who are poised for a Tiger Woods-like spike. The men’s and women’s tours benefit from the publicity, too. These parties see this not as a battle-of-the-sexes gimmick, but a sports marketing bonanza.”

“Bookies, too, are quite pleased with Sorenstam’s jump to the blue tees. Record amounts of money are being wagered on golf this week because of her [...] The LPGA is getting what’s been tagged a ’Sorenstorm’ of publicity, which can only help it attract new sponsors and fans. Commissioner Ty Votaw crowed over her profile in today’s Parade Magazine (circulation nearly 36 million), her spots on ’The Tonight Show’ and ’60 Minutes’ and her own Upper Deck trading card, too.”

OK, so when can we expect to see Tiger Woods playing in a ladies tournament … simply for the sake of PR and pumping income? Do you think the ladies will be upset if that happens? Is there some way we can group bickering men and women pro golfers in foursomes and get a Reality TV show out of it? After all, we’ve already tossed the concept that “the game” is the most important thing, so why stop here?

While I truly don’t care if a woman plays golf with the guys this weekend, let’s not pretend this is about women’s rights, or emancipation, or even athletic competition.

It’s about money. Period.

Peanut Gallery

1  John wrote:

It's about money. Period. And status for the tournament involved. The Colonial has always been the stepsister to the Byron Nelson Classic, which is played a week earlier in Dallas. The Colonial goes off in Fort Worth, but for all intents and purposes, it's like having a PGA tournament for two weeks in a row in the same city. Because it goes first, the Nelson has always gotten the lion's share of the publicity, while the Colonial suffered from a "been there, done that" attitude by the local media. Inviting Sorenstam to play competely turned things around this year, to the point that even though the Byron Nelson was played this weekend, in the days leading up to it, a lot of people thought the Colonial was the one scheduled because all the media was focused on it (though the Nelson tournament managed to grab some of the attention on Sunday thanks to Vijay Singh's victory).

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