What’s wrong with the LPGA Tour?

lpgaThe English-only policy the LPGA Tour tried to install recently drew a lot of criticism, and they promptly retracted it. Sadly, I think it’s probably needed, but in some watered down form, used not to scare or alienate foreign players, but to encourage them to learn the language. The throngs of Korean girls – who were largely thought to be the so called “targets” of this ill-fated policy – are taking the LPGA by storm, thanks to Se Ri Pak paving the way for them in the 90s. In general, Koreans are quiet and tend to keep to themselves. Their families are very tight-knit and their presence around the players is evident on the practice greens and driving range of tour events. One of the criticisms they have endured is that they show no emotion on the course. That’s just the way they are, and while even keel emotions makes for mentally strong golfers, it’s not very fan friendly. Tennis hall of famers Pete Sampras and Bjorn Borg were criticized in the same manner for not being more flamboyant or outgoing, in part due to the popularity of their great rivals Andre Agassi and John McEnroe. In the era of bubbly stars like Paula Creamer, Christina Kim and others, the stoic and cerebral Korean girls get the same treatment.

I think what the LPGA needs in order to recover from its post Annika hangover is some fan friendly innovations. On course interviews during the round, such as on the Champions and Nationwide tours would be nice, and some personal bios that show the ladies beyond the golf course might let the fans into the lives of the players a bit more. Maybe they can show us that they aren’t golf robots after all and have a personality! More prime time LPGA golf coverage would also be a welcome addition, but it seems the golf channel is getting caught up in the reality show ratings grab. Case in point – The girls got no TV time for weeks after the thrilling Nabisco finish. We are lured in by a great final round and a thrilling finish like that, and then they go off the air for over a month. Not good planning on the part of the LPGA.

The LPGA Tour is also struggling to find an identity since Annika has retired. Lorena has taken the place of Annika as the best player in the world, but Americans are not enamored with her like they were with Annika. Paula Creamer is dealing with health issues and hasn’t been on her game, Natalie Gulbis hasn’t yet reached her potential, and Michelle Wie hasn’t stepped in to be the next superstar yet. Will she ever? Who knows, but I think we all forget that she’s not even old enough to drink. Give her time! Some of the other young players I know that have lots of star qualities seem to be busy partying and enjoying life, rather than focusing on being the best golfer they can be. I won’t mention their names because it’s their right to live how they want. They could be working hard and competing for championships (they have the talent), but instead they choose to skate by making a cut here and there and cashing a nice check. In my opinion, If we can get some of these superstars in waiting to come forward and take the bull by the horns the LPGA would see a great resurgence.

I would also like to see more PGA/LPGA tournaments, like the old JC Penny classic at Innisbrook. That was a great way to show off the best golf in the US in a more casual atmosphere. Going back to tennis for examples, the best drawing tournaments of the year other than the majors are the two big co-ed events at Indian Wells and Miami. We get to see the best of both tours in one place at one time. I think the LPGA and PGA Tours need to come together a few times a year and hold a WGC event with a limited field of say 32 men and 32 women. I think fans would love to see the men and woman competing on the same course at the same time. And while we’re at it, why not start a co-ed Ryder Cup style event? Wouldn’t it be great to see the best guys and gals in the US team up against the best guys and gals from the rest of the world? Maybe Annika would come out of retirement for that too. I for one would love to see the possible match ups for that one! I’ll be eagerly awaiting the Woods/Wie vs. Garcia/Ochoa match-up, or Mickelson/Creamer vs. Ogilvy/Webb. How about the all south pairing of Weekly/McPherson vs the all Korean powerhouses of Choi/Shin? The possibilities are endless!

3 thoughts on “What’s wrong with the LPGA Tour?

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