The IX: Golf Thursday with Sarah Kellam, January 14, 2021
What I'm looking forward to this year in women's golf — Interview with Beth Ann Nichols — Must-click women's golf links
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What I’m looking forward to in 2021
After just two weeks into the new year, 2021 seems like it’s going to give 2020 a run for its money. With everything that has happened socially and politically over the past seven days, it’s understandably overwhelming to think about anything other than what’s trending on social media or featured on the news.
However, allow me to provide you with a brief respite as we look ahead to the 2021 season on the LPGA Tour that officially begins next week with the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions.
When I think about what I am looking forward to the most this season, so much comes to much mind that it’s hard to temper the excitement. The most immediate source of anticipation for me is the fact that Annika Sorenstam tees it up next week at Tranquilo as a celebrity.
I know we’ve seen her participate in a number of events with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player on the PGA Tour Champions, but I’d imagine we will see a little bit of the vintage, competitive Annika come out and hope that we are treated to a glimpse of the greatness that helped to transform women’s golf.
Plus, after hinting in December that she may be ready to tee it up again and that she had been practicing with the PNC Championship and Diamond Resorts on the docket, we may see Annika playing out on the Legends Tour this year. I mean, a girl can dream, right?
Another thing that has my interest piqued coming into this season is the potential for a rivalry to arise between Sei Young Kim and Jin Young Ko. After watching them duke it out at the CME Group Tour Championship, the pair seem to be evenly matched and, considering they both pulled off so much during a season drastically shortened by COVID-19, they are undeniably the two best players in women’s golf at the moment.
I foresee stellar seasons upcoming for both of them and predict we will see the duo have a number of amicable faceoffs over the course of 2021. Add both consistently vying against each other for the world number one ranking into the mix and it will surely be entertaining to watch develop.
On top of all of that, IT’S A SOLHEIM CUP YEAR! I think most golf fans agree that, while stroke play is definitely an enjoyable watch week in and week out, there’s nothing like two players going head to head with the weight of their respective countries resting on their shoulders.
Like it is for the Ryder Cup participants, LPGA Tour careers can be made playing in this event and I’m curious to see who makes the rosters for each team this year. Even if it’s half as dramatic as 2018 with Suzann Pettersen draining the winning putt for Team Europe and announcing her retirement mere moments later, we will be in for a treat.
However, despite all of this, I think the thing that I am most excited about as we delve into a new season of women’s golf is how much progress there is to be made.
I think we are moving in a new direction in the golf world when it comes to inclusivity and diversity and, especially in 2020, I think we saw that, regardless of what naysayers might think, women’s golf matters and is worth paying attention to.
If you need proof, consider Sophia Popov’s Cinderella story win at the AIG Women’s Open that effectively gave us the greatest story in golf this year and, because of how impactful it was, made every major golf media outlet recognize the LPGA Tour.
Think about Justin Rose organizing and sponsoring a women’s golf series to give European female professionals a place to compete during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Remember how the USGA pulled out all the stops to cover a U.S. Women’s Open across all platforms, devoting their entire brand to the event and essentially setting a new standard for how women’s major championships will be covered in the future.
Growth happened in 2020. Ground was gained. We chipped away at the indifference and the ignorance that plagues women’s golf and, in my opinion, made a considerable dent in the problem.
But, there’s still more work to be done. There’s so much more progress to be made so, when I consider what I’m looking forward to this year in women’s golf, I’m anticipating change. I’m hoping that we keep chipping away.
Because eventually, it won’t be able to be ignored any longer.
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This week in women’s golf
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Here’s who you will and won’t see playing in the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions next week. (via Golfweek)
Lake Nona Golf and Country Club will host the 2021 Gainbridge LPGA, the second event scheduled for the Tour this season. (via Golfweek)
The Gainbridge LPGA is slated for the end of February and will be held at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club in Orlando. (via LPGA.com)
19 players who had their rookie seasons in 2020 and did not win will again be considered rookies in 2021. (via Golfweek)
The U.S. Senior Women’s Open has been rescheduled for the end of July to prevent conflict with the playing of the AIG Women’s Open. (via Golfweek)
The USGA’s decision to move the U.S. Women’s Open to new dates away from the AIG Women’s Open will allow both events to get the attention they deserve. (via Golf.com)
Why Annika Sorenstam and Gary Player accepting of the Presidential Medals of Freedom from President Trump in light of last week’s event could make the sport of golf look bad. (via Golfweek)
Steve Eubanks on Babe Zaharias, the third recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Thursday. (via LPGA.com)
Donald Trump was present to award Medals of Freedom in spite of Capitol storming that took place on Wednesday. (via GolfChannel.com)
Juli Inkster, Alena Sharp, and Michelle Wie West among others are on the committee in charge of replacing Mike Whan. (via Golfweek)
Beth Ann Nichols on the legacy that Mike Whan will leave from his time as commissioner of the LPGA Tour. (via Golfweek)
Mike Whan’s ability to connect with LPGA Tour players was one of the biggest reasons for his resounding success Alan Shipnuck writes. (via Golf.com)
Here’s what Mike Whan would tell other league commissioners about how to be a successful leader. (via Golf.com)
Keely Levins thoughts on Commissioner Whan’s decision to leave the LPGA Tour and what qualities the next leader of the organization needs to possess. (via Golf Digest)
According to Augusta National Golf Club, the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and Drive, Chip, and Putt will both be contested in 2021. (via Golfweek)
With the announcement of having limited fans at the Masters, ANGC also says the Augusta National Women’s Amateur will be played as scheduled. (via Golf Digest)
Ole Miss junior Ellen Hume takes home the victory at the Sally Amateur, winning by five shots with an amazing finish. (via Golfweek)
Check out this story about a Nebraska women’s golfer that, using her graphic design background, is redesigning course logos and posting them on Twitter. (via Golfweek)
Arizona State women’s golf coach Missy Farr-Kaye has been diagnosed with colon cancer but, will continue coaching in spite of her diagnosis. (via Golf Digest)
ORCA Golf Bags will be a new partner of the LPGA, providing discounted logo’d merchandise to LPGA Professionals and LPGA Amateurs. (via LPGA.com)
Learn more about Julia Engstrom, a Ladies European Tour member and the LET’s 2018 Rookie of the Year. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
Tweet of the Week
Five at the IX: Beth Ann Nichols, Senior Writer for Golfweek
When did you begin covering golf and how has the golf media landscape changed since you began?
I actually started in the middle of my senior year of college, when Golfweek hired me in 2002 on a part-time basis until I graduated. Back then the magazine was our main priority, and social media might have been used to describe our nine-hole Wednesday golf league! The basics of journalism haven’t changed, but the way we tell stories with our cell phones and the sheer volume of articles that are written on a daily basis, with the website as the main priority, is a massive shift.
What has been your favorite and/or most gratifying story that you’ve written over the course of your career? Have you ever had a story that was especially challenging to write?
I have a lot of favorite stories. High on the list is a story I stumbled into while covering the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur. I learned that Albane Valenzuela’s younger brother Alexis, who was on the bag that week, didn’t speak for the first five years of his life as he battled Autism. He’d go on, through intense therapy and love, to speak three languages, and he was kind and brave enough to talk publicly about his battle with Autism for the first time that week. The result of that story and the media attention that followed was the idea to create “Alexis for Autism.” His inaugural event raised over $280,000.
As for difficult stories, I find that any type of remembrance piece is difficult to write. When somebody dies – especially someone I’ve known for years – the task of getting it right can feel overwhelming.
What needs to change in how women’s golf is covered and how can we make those changes? Why is it so important to tell these women’s stories?
The short answer is we need more. More investment. More appreciation. How can we know who can become a star and resonate if there’s little coverage to begin with? These women are role models and, in some cases, icons in their native countries. For the overall health of the game in America, girls junior golf and women’s golf must continue to grow. And to really make that happen, they need golf heroes who look like them.
While you generate a ton of LPGA Tour content for Golfweek, we’ve seen you writing about the men’s game as well. What differences do you experience when covering the PGA Tour compared to the LPGA Tour?
The main difference is access. It’s easier to get to LPGA players because the entourage and the demand isn’t as big.
One of the biggest gaps between the men’s and the women’s games is the amount of statistical information that’s available. Both from an historical perspective and real-time numbers. How good is Rory McIlroy from 100 yards compared to Nelly Korda? I can’t tell you the numbers because they don’t exist for the women.
In October, you had the chance to see some of the things that were taken from Mickey Wright’s home after her passing in February. What was that experience like for you? Do you have a favorite artifact that you got to see that day?
It felt like I’d truly met Mickey for the first time. We’d corresponded over the years, but I could never convince her to do an in-person interview. And she never made any public appearances during my time covering golf. My favorite thing to do was read her journals, though someone from the museum with white gloves actually flipped the pages for me. I could’ve sat there all day and read her musings on the golf swing and tournament performance. I’m hoping they’ll let me go back one day to go through those stacks of VHS tapes.