The IX: Golf Thursday with Carly Grenfell, January 23, 2020
USGA, SheIS partnership — Interview with USGA Chief Brand Officer Craig Annis — Must-click links in women's golf
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SheIS Collective Joins Forces with USGA
Announced earlier this month, the USGA and SheIS collective are teaming up to increase the attention around it’s women’s championships. I wanted to dive into this partnership a bit more today.
The USGA’s Chief Brand Officer, Craig Annis, was also kind enough to offer even more perspective on what all went into this effort and what it means for golf fans far and wide. Scroll on down to the interview section for more.
SheIS is still in its infancy as an organization. They launched in 2018 and are one of the first to bring together leagues, organizations, athletes and business leaders from all over the world to “connect with and mobilize fans to grow women’s sports.” Before this was announced, I had never heard of SheIS. That’s a really powerful concept—and like I always talk about, the more voices at the table who are standing up for women’s sports and women in sport, the better. Just like the Ladies European Tour and LPGA are joining forces to grow and improve the game, the same is happening for the USGA.
“The USGA joins the SheIS Collective at an exciting time in its growth with a focus on increasing attention around its women’s championships, specifically the U.S. Women’s Open which is entering its milestone 75th year, as well as the U.S. Women’s Amateur, which in 1895 marked the beginning of competitive female golf in the United States. In joining the SheIS Collective, USGA executives and the SheIS Collective leaders will create new opportunities to engage golf fans around tentpole events throughout the year while collaborating with other league and organization leaders to centralize learnings and resources.” (via USGA.org)
Outside of what this partnership entails, Craig mentioned something in his interview that really grabbed my attention. When it comes to improving the overall exposure and prize money on the LPGA, he said “the starting point is encouraging more women to play golf, and making golf accessible to women at all different levels.”
I will forever sing the LPGA’s praises when it comes to having a really incredible product week in and week out. It’s something I wish every sports fan would buy into and something I think that if you just gave it a try, you’d enjoy what the LPGA is all about.
But what I’ve never really thought about, and what Craig points out, is the connection between playing golf and consuming golf. If more women are playing golf, will that translate to more women watching it, supporting it and convincing all of their friends to do the same? I’d like to think so.
Take my background, for example. I played college basketball. I played basketball and was obsessed with it from the time I was a little girl. I watched a lot of women’s college basketball games in person and on tv. There’s something about experiencing a sport for yourself, and loving all it has to offer, that leads you from just having a rooting interest to being fully invested.
I’ve never played cricket and tried watching it on TV once. It was the least enjoyable thing to consume because I didn’t understand what was going on and it just seemed foreign to me.
Eliminating all the barriers of entry into golf is crucial to getting more women playing and caring about it. If you’re invited to give golf a try and you enjoy it, you’ll start playing. If you’re playing, you’re probably starting to care about the sport more. And if you care, you’re likely supporting in whatever ways you can.
On this same note, I sat down with Golf Channel’s Chantel McCabe earlier this week (podcast episode coming in February) and we talked a lot about how we can get more women especially to pick up the game. She talked about how one of her friends’ workplace offers free golf every so often to their employees simply because of the networking component. They see it as a huge benefit to their business.
There are a variety of reasons to play the sport, whether it be for the networking like in the example I just gave, for being outdoors, for socializing and drinking, for wanting something to do after retirement and the list goes on forever. But I like the idea of using the workplace as a funnel to introduce more people to the game. If you work somewhere with the opportunity to play golf for free, do it! If you like golf and your workplace doesn’t offer something like that, see if it’s possible to do something similar.
All of this is not to say that if you don’t play golf then you won’t or can’t support it in other ways. But I love the notion that getting more women to play will reap massive benefits when it comes to the overall health and growth of the game. It’s one of those sports that if you actually give it a chance, you’re probably going to be at least a little bit hooked. So why not do whatever we can to make it more accessible?
This Week in Women’s Golf
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Still love this LPGA insight from the Power Plays newsletter. A must-read!
New episode on the pod with Henni Zuel! You’ve seen her interviewing Tiger.
See how action is unfolding at the first full-field event of the 2020 season in Boca.
The LPGA will celebrate it’s 70th Anniversary this year.
Natalie Gulbis pens a powerful letter announcing her retirement.
Darkness forces a fourth day of action in the season opener.
Gaby Lopez wins the first event of the year after a three-way playoff.
LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan recognized by the GWAA.
Gerina Piller pays tribute to her mom in the latest #DriveOn story.
The Golden Bear turned 80 and Annika Sorenstam wrote him a birthday letter.
Sei Young Kim won the biggest purse of the 2019 season. Here’s how she celebrated.
Lexi Thompson feeling right at home at Boca Rio this week.
Alexandra Armas named CEO of the Ladies European Tour.
Cristie Kerr feel like people have written her off – but she’s far from done.
Lexi Thompson is back to work in Boca after a helicopter ride with Greg Norman.
Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow embarking upon historic 2020 season.
Blaire O’Neal is six months pregnant but still shining inside the ropes.
Drive Chip and Putt registration is open!
Tweets of the Week
Five at The IX: Craig Annis
With the SheIs – USGA partnership recently being announced, I was able to ask the USGA’s Chief Brand Officer Craig Annis some more questions about what we can expect to come out of this relationship. He provides some background on how it all came about and adds some more commentary on why this step is an important one of not only the USGA as an organization, but for the game of golf as a whole. (Photo courtesy of USGA.org)
I. How did this partnership come about?
As an organization, we had been closely following the work SheIs had been doing with the Women Worth Watching campaign and were introduced to them through Dani Rylan, Commissioner of the National Women’s Hockey League. After one conversation with Caiti Donovan it was clear that our organizations shared the same objective to engage more fans with competitive female sports by elevating their importance through powerful storytelling. From there the ideas started flowing.
II. Where do you think there is room to grow when it comes to women’s golf – whether that’s coverage, purse, exposure, etc.?
Our view is that it is a combination of all those things and more. The starting point is encouraging more women to play golf, and making golf accessible to women at all different levels, which remains a key element of the USGA’s mission. We are proud of our partnership with the LPGA on LPGA*USGA Girls Golf to introduce tens of thousands of young girls to the game every year, and continue to engage women through the sport at all ages including with two senior women’s championships.
Throughout its history, the U.S. Women’s Open has led the way on purse size and will continue to make this a top priority. We have seen that when we raise the purse others follow, which creates more financial opportunity for competitors. Having said that, we know there’s more to be done.
The USGA is fortunate to have five corporate partners in Rolex, American Express, Lexus, Deloitte and Cisco that are truly committed to the women’s game and investing behind it. In fact, thanks to Rolex, the U.S. Women’s Open has uninterrupted broadcast coverage which is an amazing feature for fans watching from home. With the added time created from not having to advertise, it gives our broadcast partner, Fox Sports, more time to tell the incredible life stories and remarkable achievements of the players that serve as inspiration for women and men. And thanks to Cisco, the U.S. Women’s Open is the first women’s major to have its own stand-alone app that enhances the fan experience on a year-round basis.
Increasing the number of fans watching and attending is key for growth, which is why we are committed to SheIs and what the Collective is working to achieve.
III. How will this partnership help elevate women’s golf?
What SheIs has created is a powerful group of likeminded sports leagues and organizations who are committed to elevating the women’s game. Being a part of this Collective gives us a chance to learn from others as we continue to sharpen our ability to create more exposure for female golfers and our championships. We are excited about using the Collective’s platform to bring women’s golf to more sports fans.
IV. What will teaming up with SheIS and the LPGA accomplish for the USGA’s brand?
By teaming up with SheIS and the LPGA, we further our commitment to showcasing women’s competitive sports. As much progress as we’ve made in the women’s game, we are all working towards the same goals; and in the end, are stronger together. Joining our efforts with the other top organizations will open the doors to endless possibilities.
V. Are there any specific projects or initiatives planned with SheIs/what can women’s golf fans specifically expect to come out of this partnership?
We are in full planning mode now, but fans can expect that we will leverage the Women Worth Watching platform to showcase our championship and the players who compete in it. We are celebrating the 75th U.S. Women’s Open in 2020 and are planning to bring this championship’s rich history to life as a source of inspiration.