The LPGA Triumphant Resurgence!
A major golf publication recently offered six reasons why the LPGA is experiencing a burgeoning popularity over the past few years. Perhaps that in itself is a surprise, and some golf fans aren’t aware that the women’s tour is flourishing in a way it never has. The founders of the LPGA would, I think, be proud of what is happening, and why.
The first item cited for the LPGA’s resurgence is the current commissioner, Michael Whan. At first glance, one might think, “Well, it’s a women’s tour. Shouldn’t we have a female commissioner?” Perhaps, on some level, that would make a great deal of sense, but the bottom line of any major endeavor is, “Does it work, or doesn’t it. Can you do it, or can’t you?” The LPGA found the right person for the job, with tournaments up, viewership up, sponsors and international interest up.
Second, hand in hand with that, is the expanded television coverage the tour has enjoyed since Whan’s arrival. The tour hammered out a ten-year deal with the Golf Channel, and it worked beautifully. The partners are now in their third year, and I can’t help but think that another one will appear when this one’s over. I can remember the days, not too long ago, where I could scour a good-sized city’s worth of sports bars, looking for the LPGA tournament of the week, only to find nothing. I could find curling and bass fishing, darts and Gaelic football, but no women’s golf. That has changed, at least where I live.
A purposeful marketing campaign is the next asset mentioned. Some said at the time that the image-shapers were working to make the women’s tour more “sexy.” I understand the phenomenon, but I felt at the time that I didn’t want to become a women’s golf fan as an ogler, but because of the golf. I certainly don’t mind when someone is attractive, but please…let’s play golf. In part, my fears were allayed on that point, as the players have become more accessible, more crowd-friendly. Perhaps this is natural for a women’s tour. In the tournaments I’ve attended, I find the players naturally sociable and conversational, and while there are good post-tournament talks to be had over at the PGA, most tend to be a little more curt and awkward.
The players, it is said, understand perfectly what is happening on tour, what the health of the organization is, and why. The degree of involvement in charitable causes is through the roof, and when a common cause emerges, the LPGA, seemingly as a single body, responds with admirable zeal. I.K. Kim is mentioned as an Ambassador for Special Olympics, Paula Creamer’s ease with kids, which I have seen and appreciated first-hand, is almost legendary, and once language-troubled visitors like Yani Tseng chat it up with the media whenever they get the chance.
The Solheim Cup has become an enormous component of the women’s golf year. I can remember a time in which I didn’t know what the Solheim Cup was, and now, I wouldn’t miss it. I get to see some of the world’s greatest courses, the top of group of female golfers from both sides of the Atlantic, and a competition that, while fierce, is expressed a little more graciously than it is by the men.
And, by the way, what does social media not help? Michelle Wie is said to have over 80,000 followers, Creamer has 91,000 and Natalie Gulbis, 116,000 plus. Of course, many are male fans, but that’s the way the world works sometimes.
With all the side murmuring of golf’s decay (which I believe to be erroneous in most important ways), to speak of the LPGA in terms of the game’s deterioration and eventual demise seems ludicrous. They couldn’t be talking about this tour.