See the World at the ISPS Handa
After one or two days of fretting over the Ryder Cup, not so much the winning or losing part, but the general tension and chest beating from both sides of the Atlantic, I chanced upon another event being played this week. They’re holding it in Mississippi, at the revered old Waverly Golf Club. One of the characteristics of this tournament that I particularly enjoy is that it’s for “Legends.” A whole lot of great names from the history of the LPGA are there. Some are hosting, some are playing, and it seems as if all are having a good time. Nancy Lopez is there, and when Nancy Lopez is there, something good is happening on the behalf of someone. Actually, much like the Ryder Cup, the ISPS HANDA Cup is a team effort, only there are one or two differences, especially this year. First of all, the American men don’t seem to have what it takes right now to keep up with Europe. The women of the LPGA, however, have done pretty well in holding their own with the world. Yes, the opposing team is fielded from throughout the globe, and a lot of the great names you’d expect to see there are in attendance.
The Handa is a concise tournament, compacting all the head-to-head competition into thirty-six holes of golf. That’s right, thirty-six holes – I’ve played that much in a day, and so have many of you. But, what a thirty-six. Today, Laura Davies and Trish Johnson came through for the world (doesn’t that have an odd sound?) by winning two 9-hole matches, but the American team responded with Juli Inkster and Meg Mallon, who came through to bring the whole affair to a tie coming into the final day. That’s who Tom Watson should have called – Juli Inkster and Meg Mallon…and Kathy Whitworth and…and, well you get it. I know he couldn’t do that, but he needs an idea quick.
In the longer history of the event, such success isn’t too surprising, as the U.S. leads the series, 6-1-1.
There’s another difference, an important one. While the testosteronic PGA and European Tour did their tribal chants, and journalists from both sides acted offended over nothing, the ISPS HANDA Cup is part of a series of events, not merely logistical, but based on Dr. Handa’s “belief in the power of sport.” The ISPS website describes the founder and CEO as a businessman, artist, philanthropist, and academic, in the most glowing of terms in each category. His method of operation isn’t about demonizing opposing players as “thugs,” jabbing the needle over strained relationships in order to get a leg up, or whipping up either real or faux hatred on the basis of national or continental pride.
Check out the website – you’ll find information on all the tournaments sponsored by ISPS, like the Women’s Opens in Australia and New Zealand, the Faldo Series in Asisa, the Ladies European Masters, worldwide programs offering golf to the blind, who play a regularly scheduled international tournament, and to those with all manner of potentially disabling conditions.
The tone that’s set in the Ryder Cup has increasingly become poorly self-expressed, snide, and a little schoolyard-like. The ISPS events, on the other hand, have followed through with the mission, “to break down educational and cultural barriers.”
If the American women hold off the world, and win the overall event, great – if not, great. Individuals who participate are competitors, so of course they want to go home with the win. But long after the winner is forgotten, a lot of work will have been done to make the world and sport a better place for those who couldn’t enjoy it before. These “Legends,” whether from Mississippi or from halfway around the world, are not finished being legends, and our hats are off to them. Take a lesson, Ryder Cup.