Welcome to center stage, women’s golf — Interview with Jessica McAlister

The IX: Golf Thursday with Addie Parker, Dec. 21, 2023

For the last time in 2023, happy Golf Thursday my friends. It has been a heck of a year, filled with monumental storylines that have quite literally changed golf forever (and I’d argue for the better). From playing iconic venues for the first time to LPGA players making moves on the PGA Tour — women’s golf’s time to shine is now.

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(Editor’s note: this is the last Golf Thursday of 2023. The IX is off next week, and we return with Tennis Tuesday on Jan. 2, 2024.)

(Author’s note: I was listening to Lights Up by Harry Styles on repeat writing this…I highly recommend listening to it as you read.)

The PGA Tour has been the standard for the game of golf for decades, but in the last two seasons, we’ve seen that the grass isn’t greener on the other side. The PGA Tour has been operating as a dysfunctional, broken system, mainly due to the ongoing saga of the PGA Tour, LIV Golf, and the PIF — which has dominated golf media. All the while, the LPGA Tour has carried on business as usual, collecting more sponsors and money, while remaining unified (let’s not forget about the vote for the LET and LPGA to merge).

Is everything perfect? Of course not, there are still major disparity issues to be addressed when it comes to money, player treatment, and TV viewership, nevertheless, the argument for the women’s game trending upward more so than the men’s game has some validity. With each passing year, records are breaking, more money is being funneled through, and even on the micro-level, programs like Girls Golf have reached one million junior golfers.

Women’s golf, much like women’s sports as a whole, is in a prime spot to continue this (long overdue) growth. Public interest has never been higher and to build on this, there’s something the LPGA as an organization needs to do… now.

CEO and Founder of Just Women’s Sports, Haley Rosen, took to Twitter the other day and made the most profound post of the year (in my humble opinion).

Rosen goes on to say, “It’s a decentralized, bottoms-up growth marketing model. And it works. If you want to grow your league, you have to build connections between individual fan bases and their favorite players and teams.”

And she’s absolutely right. People follow people. In this digital world, where we have access to just about everything, we relate to the content that’s authentic and genuine. Despite the advancements of AI — humans would rather interact with humans.

This is something Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan is cognizant of already.

In her address to the media during the CME Group Tour Championship, Samann said: “Grabbing on to six to eight of our players and being able to build their brands, but also giving training to all of our players on how they can use their social media channels and other opportunities in front of them to build their own personal brands. I think we all know that people follow people rather than organizations, and so we want the world, as I said from the very beginning, to understand our players, know who they are.”

This brand development will happen in conjunction with Naomi Osaka’s new production company Hana Kuma — a new partnership for the LPGA.

Because golf is an individual sport, it is that much more imperative to create narratives around dominant players. I mean I hate to point out the obvious but the personal brand of Tiger Woods, TW, has shaped golf forever. But I’d argue that it was with the help of Nike more than the PGA Tour. So imagine what could happen if these women had the resources of the LPGA and the brands the tour/organization partners with behind them.

As a fan, I’d love to see the unsponsored players (like Angel Yin) get some spotlight, building a personal brand to get them those sponsors and brand deals would be killing two birds with one stone. I’d also like to see more crossover with junior and amateur programs like AJGA (who is having a major social media moment) — because no one utilizes social media like Gen Z, so targeting Gen Z with their peers couldn’t make more sense to me.

The LPGA web extends so far and I’m ready to see it at its full potential and emerge as the crown jewel of golf, especially as the men’s game is trying to figure itself out.

I’ll put it this way, the 2023 season was like that incredible center of the club face, bombed drive that carried 280, with a perfect lie in the middle of the fairway, with the grass so plush it’s like the ball is teed up — and 2024 is the approach shot we pray hits the green (or better yet, hole out for eagle).

Be safe, be merry and I’ll see you in the new year.


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This week in women’s golf/must-click links

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 addieparker25@theixsports.com ! Discussion of any kind is always welcome…I mean it…MESSAGE ME!

LPGA News

Five things to know about Rose Zhang’s rookie season

No Laying Up Podcast’s LPGA 2023 recap part 2

Golfweek: 5 things we want to see on the LPGA in 2024

What’s in my bag’ with Ally Ewing

LET News

Two weeks after earning LPGA card, Russia’s Nataliya Guseva wins LET Q-School

LET 2024 schedule

Epson Tour News

Meet 2023 Epson Tour graduate Kristen Gillman

NCAA/Amateur News

College golf predictions: Who will win major awards, championships in 2024?

Amateur Golf Podcast!!! 2023 recap

Other News

Golf Monthly’s Alison Root supports women expressing themselves through their choice of golf fashion, but questions if too many body-baring influencers is in the best interest of the women’s game

Read my latest from Golf Digest


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Five at The IX: Golf industry expert and talent manager Jessica McAlister talks golf media, 2024 predictions, and more

For my final Five at The IX, I got to chat with Jessica McAlister — a woman who wears many hats. From the early days of playing golf with her father to managing some of golf’s biggest influencers like Tisha Alyn, McAlister has prided herself in being a positive disruption in the golf industry.

She’s not afraid to voice her opinions and isn’t shy about her aspirations to take over golf…in every way possible.

We had a two-hour conversation, so it’s heavily edited for readability, but I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did.

Cheers.

Q: Describe your relationship to golf/how you got started.

JM: I grew up on a course in San Diego and would play with my dad, and when I first started out I had so many questions about the sport…I would ask so many questions. And he [my dad], would say weird terms, and I’d be like what does that mean? You know, and he bought me a little golf dictionary, so I could hang with the guys when I would go out with him.

And so I knew it very early on, but when I become really curious about something or interested or passionate, I’ve become relentless in the pursuit of meaning to understand every crevice and every why.

And, and so I was like, what is the business of golf? You know, like, why is it so expensive? You know, all these things, like, you know who Tiger Woods is, you know what the Masters is, but like, what is the business? Right? And where are the women? You know, and that’s why I started asking questions. Well, like, I got really into golf and being with my dad all the time. But it also turned into a form of meditation for me. So I would have friends going to yoga and like, I’d be going to the driving range with my headphones and just whacking the crap out of balls for hours and get all my stress and anger out.

Q: So you have a few golf brands under your belt…can you elaborate on them and their missions?

I felt like I needed a brand, you know, and I was like, I want to take over the world. I want to represent everybody and I’m gonna do that. So I came up with this silly little name, The Digital Golf Collective. (Author’s note: McAlister has left DGC and started a new project that will be launching in 2024.)

And then I told myself, no it’s not silly because I want to run the world of digital golf. Digital golf, within itself a collective — it’s a collective of people. It’s a collective of minds, perspectives, and brands. Which is what the golf industry is. It’s a community. It’s a collective of people who are all obsessed with golf.

And I wanted to build out, I have all these ideas, that never got built out, but I will be building out. So stay tuned there.

Q: As a golf fan, what were the major moments of the 2023 season, to you?

I mean for one, my thriving business [laughs]. But I love seeing brands spending more money in the space and understanding the impact, but that’s a deeper conversation.

But the kind of attention in the women’s space and I really like. You’re seeing a lot more celebration around these up-and-coming players like Rose Zhang and Lilia Vu — like she’s just dominated cannot wait to watch her [Vu] next season.

Like just things like that. Like, although there’s negative and weird sh*t going on, the positives are those, right? And then seeing, you know, the celebrity world and sports world outside of golf world come into the space.

But what’s crazy is that celebrities and athletes have played golf forever, they’ve always been obsessed with golf. But now it’s more exploited because of social media. But I think, you know, one of the biggest positive impacts as DJ Khaled, you know, and like him coming in. He is a true representation of what happens when you become a golf nut.

Q: If you were commissioner of the PGA/LPGA tour for a month, what would you do differently?

I would definitely explore new strategies to keep a stronghold on the golf fans, new ways of activating sponsors, and distribute more media content while letting players and channels have rights to their own content. Because that’s one way the like, hello, keep engagement.

I’d work with both PGA Tour and LPGA to come up with more crossover collaboration opportunities. But I think with the LPGA specifically, I think that it’s hard because they don’t own and operate their entire system. So what’s interesting is like, yes, it’s a web and you know, someone like Mollie is so focused on the LPGA but most of these events are owned and operated by other entities. And they’re the ones bringing in the sponsorships. So what’s going on here? I think just having the tour operate and own its stuff is what needs to happen.

Women’s golf is not in the same space it was 10 years ago, so refreshed strategies like social media are necessary and using it intentionally.

Q: 2024: what are your golf predictions?

Well, we know women’s sports as a whole are blowing up. So I think we’re gonna see a massive shift in that and support. Not as far as like, all of a sudden there’s interest in the women’s golf space, you know what I mean? But I do think there’s gonna be a huge monetary shift there.

Hopefully more media coverage [for women]. Tiger coming back. More players to LIV.

And I think people are waiting for golf to plateau. But I think sales are still gonna increase, but I think that there’s gonna be a leveling off of the B.S. of these, like, you know, girls taking their tops off and like, all just like, people ruining golf courses. And yeah, social media is a big part of it, but some people are getting frustrated, and I think there’s gonna be a house-cleaning situation.


Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Addie Parker