Does Women’s Golf Have a True Superstar, or are We Still Waiting?
I just finished reading an article by Randell Mell, in which he discusses the availability of superstars among the field of the LPGA. When he claims that the tour is very much deeper than it once was, he is absolutely correct. In no way does he claim that the early greats are diminished, such as Wright, Berg, Didrikson, and the rest. In fact, they can be saluted for developing a tour that grew up into a global field of first-rate female players. As I’m sometimes told, you hope for your children to end up better than you are, and do a better job than you did. I believe that the LPGA pioneers of the 1950s forward did just that. Each one was a superstar in terms of vision.
I’m not sure if not knowing who the real superstar of the moment is hurts the LPGA. Its audience senses that the level is the highest that it has ever been. I believe that what Mr. Mell is speaking of is that female Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus, someone who will take the women’s tour by the throat, and shake it until all its victories fall out at the new champion’s feet. I won’t try to offer any rebuttal to what he wrote, because I really can’t. But I have a second question, and an alternate theory. I have been under the impression on several occasions over the past years that we were absolutely possess a superstar among the women. I still believe that I was right on every one of those occasions. However, since the reign of Annika Sorenstam, none of them have stayed on. It is as if the professional golf mill produced them for us, and then destroyed them, ate them up, made them disappear. Lorena Ochoa might have lasted as a superstar if she had not retired herself. There was nothing wrong with her or her game. She was just ready for the next part of life, and took it. Then, the youth wave hit, and we had Lexi and Lydia, Brooke, Brittany, and Charley, Shanshan and Ariya. You might notice that I have not listed one South Korean golfer. That is because the emergence of South Korea constitutes a national superstar quality of its own. The state of golf in Korea is so good that the LPGA can play matches against one Asian country, and have a tough time pulling it off.
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I still don’t understand why all the ones I took to be superstars didn’t sustain it. Palmer, Player, and Nicklaus had to live life while they were playing. So did Mickey and the pioneers. Can anyone tell me that a teenage girl who is winning LPGA events at the age of fourteen isn’t going to be a superstar? And yet, here comes life, and Lydia has struggled for an entire year. Can it be that Yani Tseng, within a hair’s breadth of the Hall of Fame before before the age of getting a driver’s license is not going to be a superstar? But what happened? A brick wall of some sort, and she has disappeared for two or three years. Lexi Thompson seems the obvious choice, and given a few reversals of minutia, she would be far more dominant than she has been. What’s going on? When Betsy King became superstar, she stayed a superstar. She and her best colleagues were not destroyed by the industry, and in saying that, I can’t think of what feature of the tour I would accuse of such a thing. It’s not all happening at the LPGA. Tiger’s story will remain a psychological mystery for as long long as humans hit balls with sticks. A fiendishly-skilled player hits the same brick wall. There is something about the modern, present-day world, whether or not the tour has anything to do with it, that resists a long-term superstar. Personally, I think we have them. Now, How to keep them is a different question altogether.