The LPGA and Pride Month — U.S. Open Quotes — Must-click women’s golf links
The IX: Golf Thursday with Addie Parker, June 2, 2022
Happy Golf Thursday and Pride Month! Remember way back in March, when I discussed the Chevron Championship being held at Mission Hills for the last time and the possibility of moving the championship to Houston, Texas — well with another major week upon us I’d like to revisit why this move in particular could be problematic. With the recent tragedy in Uvalde, I want to tackle this discussion with a much respect as possible knowing that the entire state of Texas, as well as our country, is still mourning.
It’s no secret that Texas has a gun control issue, or that they are extremely harsh when it comes to the reproductive rights of women, or that they have strict anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in place. But what may be a bit more untold, are the implications that these issues have when it comes to women’s sports and our very own LPGA Tour.
After my Chevron Championship piece was published, a loyal reader reached out to me, addressing her own personal concerns with the event moving to Texas. She wrote, “Every lesbian and ally knows what Texas means for gay rights. Every transgender person and ally knows what Texas means for transgender rights. And every woman and ally knows what Texas means for women’s rights — particularly for the issue of choice. I am SO insulted to think that the Commissioner and women’s golf decision makers would have the audacity to even consider moving any women’s golf event to Texas. For this matter, no state with discrimination should receive any women’s golf tournaments. But, as a start, we need to focus on the newly named Chevron event. If Chevron really wants to show its support for women’s golf, the company should start here. Do NOT relocate this highly honored and precious event to Texas. If the decision is not reversed then the affected groups would be wise to organize protests against the LPGA.”
And she’s correct. Those who are behind decisions of where tournaments are held have a duty to uphold values that protect their players and the fans. “Approachability: we embrace our fans, sponsors and students. We recognize the value of interacting with them. We strive to always exceed their expectations. This is what sets us apart from others in the world of sports.” This is an excerpt from the LPGA’s official website on their mission statement and values. The syntactic structure of this statement is extremely important. The organization placed fans before sponsors, if this is the case, then the LPGA should have no issue reconsidering what this move may mean to the fans where conservative politics threaten their rights.
But Texas isn’t the only state that threatens the rights of women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. This week’s U.S. Open is in Southern Pines, North Carolina, the same state that sparked controversy in 2016 with proposed legislation that would prohibit trans people from using bathrooms that aligned with their gender identity. The legislation came with major fallout from companies and organizations, such as the NBA moving the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans.
For years, organizations like the WNBPA and U.S. women’s national soccer team have been at the forefront of fighting for social issues. From police brutality to equal pay, the women of these organizations have made speaking up and out a priority. And they do so, with so much more to lose than their male counterparts. They continuously put their paychecks and sponsorships at risk — something I urge the tour to do as well. If sponsors pull their support over speaking up against injustices…are they the kinds of people we want involved in our game? The game that encourages integrity and morality above any skill. We know far too well what more sponsors means for players, but at what cost? What precedent are we setting if the tour places financial gain over it’s own value system?
The WNBA and USWNT also do a much better job with visibility within their organization of athletes who are members of the LGBTQ+ community. In terms of visibility in golf, Mel Reid coming out in 2018, is the only thing that comes to mind. I’m sure that there are so many others out there in the golfing landscape, where are there stories and features? Mel’s story was highlighted during last year’s Pride Month celebration but it’s not enough for me, especially knowing that the commissioner, the tour, and whoever else is considering Houston to be the new home of the Chevron Championship.
This is a celebration of Pride Month but it’s also so much more. This is bigger than just politics, this conversation is about upholding values and not asking an entire group of our golfing community to sacrifice their beliefs for the sake of supporting a tournament in a place that doesn’t value their identity. It’s not fair, it’s not right, and it’s not too much to ask for those in power to prioritize players and fans when considering the locations of events.
Throughout its history, golf and our leading organizations have been behind the curve when it comes to inclusivity, let’s not let it happen again.
“It takes no compromise to give people their rights … it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.”— Harvey Milk, American politician and the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
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This week in women’s golf
If you have links you wish to share for Golf Thursday, sources for golf news, or want to talk about anything at all, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org ! Discussion of any kind is always welcome…I mean it…MESSAGE ME!
This week is all about the Women’s U.S. Open, so let’s dive into it starting with this tweet from Marina Alex who tweeted what we were all thinking…another wonderful week of golf journalism focusing on what’s important!
Now that the humor is out of the way, let’s get to business. The following links are breaking down who is in the field and key players to watch.
All eyes are on Michelle Wie West since her announcement that she’s walking away from professional golf after this week. “It was kind of bittersweet always to announce that, but it’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a while.” Read the full story.
Learn more about the course with these links: The 2022 U.S. Women’s Open returns to hallowed ground at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club & Check the yardage book: Pine Needles for the U.S. Women’s Open
SHOW ME THE MONEY!!! To get the details on this week’s historic $10 million purse, follow these links: U.S. Women’s Open: It’s not about the money, players say, but many lives will be changed by the $10 million purse
I feel like we know the LPGA players well, but the LET doesn’t always receive the same attention. Let’s get to know a few players and fans of the LET!
Starting off: Caterina Don, a 21-year-old University of Georgia student from Italy! “It’s my first LET event and so close to home and really interesting to see the people around. It’s a different atmosphere from amateur golf, for sure. There are a lot of people here that I haven’t seen for a long time. It’s really exciting.” She’ll be teeing it up in the Ladies Italian Open presented by Piemonte.
Rising Ladies European Tour star Virginia Elena Carta will also be in the the Ladies Italian Open field. Carta is from Milan! “It’s definitely great to be back home and it’s a privilege to be playing on the Ladies European Tour and at Margara Golf Club in the Ladies Italian Open presented by Regione Piemonte. It’s lovely to come back. My professional debut was here last year so I have so many emotions going on and I can’t wait to get started tomorrow.”
The invisibility of a chronic condition living inside a human being, who from the outside looks to be healthy, does not limit its effect. Luisa Ceola is just one of the millions of people whose disability is not immediately apparent, read her story.
“Life is beautiful, and golf is like a beautiful flower in life.” There is a rhythm and music to the words that come from the heart of Alessandra Donati. I loved everything about this piece…check it out for yourself.
Epson Tour News
Ingrid Gutierrez Nunez, who is playing her third U.S. Women’s Open presented by ProMedica this week, found a safe place and started a life in the game.
My new pal Lisa Cornwell is back with a brand new episode of LIKE IT IS: Christine Brennan (USA Today) on Saudi, Pay Equality, Transgender Athletes & More. Listen to it now!
Five at The IX: U.S. Open at Pine Needle press conferences from Michelle Wie West, Nelly Korda, and Annika Sorenstam
Michelle Wie West:
Q. You talked about your intent next year to play at Pebble Beach. Talk about what the U.S. Women’s Open means to you.
MICHELLE WIE WEST: Oh, it means everything to me. It was the one tournament I wanted to win ever since I started playing golf. If I hadn’t won the 2014 U.S. Open I would still — I definitely wouldn’t retire, and I would still be out here playing and chasing that win.
That win means everything to me.
Q. I know the competitor in you will want to come out and do your best, but how do you compartmentalize all that and soak it all in at the same time?
MICHELLE WIE WEST: Yeah, I’m definitely managing expectations right now. I definitely haven’t had the practice schedule that I usually do leading up to U.S. Open.
This week I’m just soaking it all in. Just seeing all the fans, seeing all the players, walking the walk. It’s pretty cool.
Obviously the competitive side of me wants to win and do the best I can.
It’s going to be a fun week.
Q. What, if anything, will you miss about playing regularly?
MICHELLE WIE WEST: You know, the competitive side of it for sure. I’ll miss the players and the camaraderie out here. But I’ve kept in touch. I think still being on the board and still being so involved in the industry and the Tour, it’s really helped me to really keep in touch with a lot of people.
Yeah, it’s nice to see everyone in the flesh. I feel like the last two years everything was done over Zoom and over computer screens, so it’s really nice to see everyone in person.
Q. It’s very difficult when you’re in the middle of something to have perspective on it. Now that you’ve made the decision to walk away, can you give us an assessment of your career?
MICHELLE WIE WEST: You know, first off, I want to say I have zero regrets in my career. There’s always that inkling of wishing I had done more. But I feel like no matter what, no one is ever going to be 100 percent satisfied.
I have definitely had an up-and-down career, but I’m extremely proud for the resiliency that I’ve shown over my career. I’m extremely proud to have achieved the two biggest dreams that I’ve had, one being graduating from Stanford, and the other winning the U.S. Open. To check both those off the list means everything to me.
I’m very proud of myself. I’ve always wished I would have done more, but I feel like everyone kind of feels that way, so I’m definitely giving myself some grace and enjoying this last week.
Q. As we look ahead to what the future holds for you, how excited are you? You’ve done so much for the game over the course of your career, but now you’re in position to do even more. How excited are you to leave golf better than when you found it?
MICHELLE WIE WEST: I’m really excited. LA Golf, a company I’m invested in and on the board of, we just announced we’re pledging to go forward with a new women’s initiative where we want to kind of change the sponsorship landscape, and like I said, just show that female athletes deserve better.
We’re coming out with a full healthcare benefits plan, paid maternity leave, paid mental health days, and travel, just making everything more seamless. I just know as a female athlete, travel is not as glamorous as what people think.
We’re lugging our bags on and off carousels every week, bags are getting lost, and we just want to create a more seamless experience for female athletes and just kind of show them what they’re really worth and respect that.
Q. Blood clots are dangerous; can you tell us the anxiety of getting the news, how you got it and what the next few days were like after that?
NELLY KORDA: Yeah, I was just feeling funny. My arm wasn’t feeling too great. I listened to my body. I went to the ER, got some ultrasounds, found out that I had a blood clot, went back home and saw a specialist, Dr. Michael Leopore, he was great. Can’t think of a better doctor to do the procedure. I’ve been good ever since.
Q. If you could kind of give us a little timeline of the date of your procedure and then when you started to hit balls again and when you played your first few holes or total round.
NELLY KORDA: Do you remember the date? I don’t remember the date of it.
Obviously it was, I think, around late February or early March. I think if you go back to my post — I don’t remember the date, but, again, I was supposed to fly out to the West Coast that next morning and I just felt funny.
I called my family doctor, and he advised me to go to the ER. I went to the ER, found out I had a blood clot, went back home, searched for a specialist, found one in Sarasota that was great, and then obviously had my procedure.
Obviously I did a lot, a lot of rehab and I worked — I went actually out to California for a month, did rehab there, worked with my coach Jamie Mulligan. Wanted him to be there for when I first started hitting balls.
Yeah, I think it was around the time of probably the second LA event that I started hitting balls. I started obviously gradually really slow. I probably went like 60 percent. I was hitting like my 8-iron 100 yards to see how it was feeling, and then once I got the clearance from my doctor, then I was good to go.
Q. Did you miss competition, and if so, more or less than you thought?
NELLY KORDA: Oh, yeah. It was actually really hard to watch. I think I watched Jess’s final round only at Chevron. But other than that, yeah, definitely — that one hurt a lot just because it was the last event, the last time there.
But yeah, I’ve missed it so much. Definitely as I got closer to this week, I started finally hitting it a little longer, I think the juices started flowing a little bit more, but I’m so happy to be out here. I’ve missed everyone, and I’m just grateful.
Q. I am wondering what your expectations are this week given all that.
NELLY KORDA: To tee up and to hit my first shot on Thursday. That is as far as I’m looking right now. I’ve been out of competition since early February, and I’m honestly just grateful to be out here. I’m going to take it one step at a time. I’m not expecting too much.
Girls are already in the midst of their seasons and they have a bunch of rounds under their belts. I’m coming into like a weird part of the schedule where I have the U.S. Women’s Open then I’m defending at Meijer, and then I’m defending at KPMG. I have a few big events coming up.
Honestly, I’m trying not to think about it too much, and I’m just more grateful that I’m out here, I’m being able to compete, and I’m seeing all the girls, too.
Q. Does the time away from the sport change your perspective at all about playing out here and being one of the faces of the Tour?
NELLY KORDA: Yeah, for sure. It’s like when you’re sick and your nose is stuffy, you’re so grateful to be able to breathe. I feel like it’s the same way. I think when it’s kind of taken away from you, you kind of sit back and you realize how amazing of a sport it is and then how you can travel the world and how you can just do what you love.
Yeah, I definitely missed it.
Q. You mentioned seeing your graduates of your camps, your clinics, your tournaments out here. There’s a lot of younger players; 22 players are under the age of 19, under the age of 20. You are seeing the future of golf out here right before you. What’s it like?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I think that says it right there. We have 68 Annika alumna, and I would like to say we’re 69 if I count. I’m not young, but I go to every event, every place, so I really should count.
Yeah, I think that says a lot about women’s golf. I think I know as you know we spend a lot of time with the foundation of the girls between 12 and 18. I’m not surprised because we see that level of golf at an earlier age than we ever have.
So nice to see them here. The future is strong, and hopefully that will inspire other young girls to continue to play or pick up the game.
Q. You mentioned it earlier. Your relationship with Peggy Kirk Bell. I think everybody kind of knew that maybe you were going to come back this week, but was that kind of a driving force to come back here to Pine Needles?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yeah, absolutely. There were a few factors. Getting the exemption is number one. Coming here with Peggy is maybe two — I mean, three, and then my family is probably two, wanting me to be part of this again.
And with the girls that we play — that have played in our tournaments, just to inspire them and continue to inspire golfers around the world.
I think there’s four or five factors, and it certainly would have been different if this were somewhere else. I have a nice friendship with her family, too. Her kids and grandkids and just kind of being here and coming back. That means the world to me.
Q. One of the volunteers told me that you went out to the maintenance shed last night after playing and hung out with some of the workers over there. What was that like? How did that come about?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, first of all, as you know, there’s a big women crew this week. They brought in women, I wouldn’t say superintendents, but crew workers from different parts of the country. I think that’s a really cool initiative to have women a part of that.
The lady that is kind of spearheading it, she works out of Minnesota with the course that is one of the nearby courses that I designed with Arnold Palmer. So I would see her out there. She’s done a few things for the foundation.
She contacted Mike, and I just thought it was a great neat thing for the women to be here. When we look at the golf industry, there’s a few things where you don’t see a lot of women. That’s in design and the maintenance. To have a lot of women there, and it was just a neat thing to see, and to say thank you.
Q. You have remained a resonant force in the game of golf. What lessons can the LPGA and its players take away from how you have built your brand up as they look to promote their next stars?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: That’s a big question. I think the LPGA does a really good job. I think they’ve done an amazing job together with the USGA. Just look at this tournament. I think maybe I have learned some things from them, you know, how to build a brand and being consistent with what you do and what you deliver.
I feel very fortunate to have the game of golf as kind of my vehicle, my platform, to be able to share the passion I have, whether it’s through the foundation or my partners.
I think it’s a partnership that goes back hand in hand. I mean, especially when you think of the Rolex ANNIKA Major Award. It’s one of my main partners, LPGA, and then we’re here at the U.S. Open.
So I never really thought I would play to get some points, so I’m trying to get some RAMA points.
Q. When you won here, the total purse was $1.2 million. This year the winner is going to get $1.8 million. What’s that say about the growth of the women’s game?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I think it’s fantastic. I think it’s great. I want to thank the USGA for doing that and giving the women that opportunity. That is a massive change. I think it’s a massive boost. I think it gives the women a lot more credibility and respect for doing that.
I really didn’t come here for that reason, but I think it’s nice to see the women really — that this is really paying off. So keep on going. Hope other tournaments will follow suit, and let’s keep working this direction for other women.
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