The IX: Golf Thursday with Carly Grenfell, August 20, 2020
Addressing slow play — Interview with Alexis Belton — Must-click links in women's golf
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Addressing Slow Play
The Ladies Scottish Open last weekend was infused with excitement, primarily because of the four-way playoff to decide the winner. On Sunday, it came down to Azahara Munoz, Cheyenne Knight, Emily Kristine Pedersen and Stacy Lewis—who came out on top for her 13th LPGA Tour victory (and first since the birth to daughter Chesnee nearly two years ago.)
It was after the third round that Stacy Lewis piped up about how long the round took, which was around five hours, and she continued to voice her opinion on the issue after she won as well. Lewis was paired with Azahara Munoz and Jennifer song for the third and final rounds. Every player has their own style of play; I absolutely understand that. But I do agree with Lewis’ point in that being so slow can actually be disruptive. Not to mention—it isn’t any fun to watch for fans.
“I had to really kind of stop watching at some points and just kind of go into your own world and think about something else, sing yourself a song or do something. You really kind of get out of rhythm and it’s hard to keep things going.” (Stacy Lewis via Golfweek)
Turns out, Lewis was singing Taylor Swift songs to herself (her daughter’s favorite) to keep her mind off of the slow play. When the three of them were finally put on the clock on the 11th hole on Sunday, which ended up lasting four holes according to rules officials, she carded a double bogey. Kind of a bummer that the one fast player had to feel rushed and she was the only one it really impacted.
Slow play has been a topic of discussion in golf for a very long time. While it is improving, the women’s game especially still has a long way to go. Lewis also tweeted last year after of one the rounds at the Evian Championship that lasted six hours! That is pure insanity; even if you hit a bad shot every hole, a round of golf shouldn’t take that long. I know I always complain about the lack of television coverage, and will continue to until it improves, but a six-hour round definitely doesn’t fit the typical four hour broadcast window.
“It shouldn’t take that long to play. I do think an effort needs to be made across the board to play faster, because obviously I wasn’t watching it on TV, but I’m sure it couldn’t have been fun to watch on TV.” (Stacy Lewis via Golf.com)
So, where do we go from here? When we’re talking about slow play, it’s not something that can be fixed overnight. Right now, the only solution in place is literally putting players on the clock and fining them if they don’t change or speed up. But is this really working? My gut reaction is no—because we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now if it were. At the end of the day, we’re actually dealing with breaking habits. And that’s no easy task.
I absolutely loved Judy Rankin’s insight on why it’s still a problem in the women’s game. Now a tour broadcaster, Rankin had a storied LPGA career and shines an interesting light on why we’re still dealing with slow play. In her mind, it comes down to almost being too polite.
“…Because sometimes this feeling, that you have to be very still and not create any commotion while someone else is playing, is a big part of the problem. And everybody has to get on that page and realize that people are going to be moving around, they’re going to be this, they’re going to be that, until you hit your shot. There’s a level of good sportsmanship and politeness, and then there is just the practicality of playing the game.” (via Golf.com)
The practicality of playing the game—I love that. And to Stacy Lewis’ point as well in that same Golf.com article, what would happen if players were penalized more than they are fined? In an article written last October by Golfweek, the average pace of play for threesomes was just under five hours. Through August of 2019, there were five fines and one two-stroke penalty handed out. In 2018, there were six fines and four two-stroke penalties. But get this: in 2016, there were 34 slow play fines.
Issuing less than 10 fines in 2019 compared to 34 in 2016 is a positive trend. But it makes you wonder if the problem will ever fully go away. In January of this year, the PGA Tour implemented stricter slow play policies that involves both an observation list and excessive shot times. The observation list is based on ShotLink data over a players’ last 10 tournaments. If it’s “egregiously slow,” and they are put on the list for any tournament week, they’re also put on a 60-second shot clock at all times. The excessive shot times rule doesn’t allow anyone to take more than two minutes to hit a shot without being penalized.
I have not seen any updates to the LPGA rules as of late. I had never thought of the power of technology when it comes to slow play either, but that is a powerful, and objective, way to regulate it and simultaneously make the game faster. Awareness is a huge factor here—so I really like the addition of the observation list. What the LPGA does have going for it right now is players like Stacy Lewis being vocal. It wouldn’t be an easy thing to hear if you are one of the slow players. But without being challenged and held accountable, how will anything change?
The beauty of golf is any player can make the game their own. They can all add their own flavor and have their own unique styles of play. It’s part of what makes the game so great, because golf doesn’t have to be played in one, universal way (contrary to popular belief). Today’s interview is a perfect testament to that. Enjoy some additional perspective down below and enjoy having major championship golf on your TVs today and throughout the weekend!
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This Week in Women’s Golf
Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me! email@example.com
The LPGA’s first major is live! Check out the TV times here. (via Beth Ann Nichols)
The weather, like 60 mph winds, at Troon this weekend could make things really interesting. (via Golfweek)
All you need to know for the Women’s British Open—tv times, prize money, tee times and more. (via Bleacher Report)
You have to check out this lineup for future Women’s British Open venues. (via Golfweek)
Gary Player tweeted the sweetest thing for his wife’s birthday. (via Twitter)
Laura Davies is playing in her 40th British Open—so she hit the ceremonial first tee shot earlier today. (via Golfweek)
Danielle Kang can fulfill her potential at the Women’s British Open. (via New York Times)
Let’s be happy the ANA Inspiration is being played at all, with or without fans. (via Desert Sun)
The Solheim Cup will move back to even years eventually so it isn’t always alongside the Ryder Cup. (via The Scotsman)
Have you heard of the ‘postage stamp’ hole at Royal Troon? It’s an iconic hole—and here’s what LPGA players are saying about it. (via Golfweek)
Want to stay up-to-date on all things women’s golf? Here are five Twitter must follows. (via Golf.com)
Stacy Lewis tabbed her first win since becoming a mom last week, and it meant the world to her. (via Stacy Lewis Twitter)
The Scottish Open didn’t come without some controversy: slow play. Stacy Lewis spoke up about this problem and how badly it need fixed. (via Golfweek)
Mo Martin is the epitome of ‘never quit’ in the latest #DriveOn feature. (via Golf Channel)
It’s not looking great for the LPGA’s Asia swing at the end of the year. (via Golf Digest)
Good things happening for Cristie Kerr’s wine business. (via Golfweek)
Callaway’s new line of women’s clubs designed to be lighter to go longer. (via Golf Digest)
The surprising cause of a slow play according to a Hall of Famer. (via Golf.com)
Inbee Park’s husband, coach is on her bag this week at Troon. (via Golf Channel)
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Alexis Belton
One of my favorite quotes from World Long Drive and Symetra Tour player Alexis Belton during our conversation was that “everyone paints the canvas of the golf course in a different way.” That’s the truth. And she’s a perfect example of how you can make golf whatever you want it to be. Hear a little bit about her story and how she wants to better golf’s future.
I. Tell us a little bit about yourself: I am from, I like to say LA, but Louisiana, and have been playing golf since I was a junior in high school. I played college golf, transferred a few times, but ended my career at a small NAIA school called Texas Wesleyan University, and was an assistant coach for a year. Now I’m doing World Long Drive and Symetra Tour.
II. What were some of your highlights from college golf: Honestly, the biggest takeaway is having an appreciation for the level that I played at. I wanted to be a DI athlete, I thought it was going to be basketball. College golf helped me know my identity—it wasn’t about a score or a ranking. I was able to have a couple wins, one was the PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship, so that was a ton of fun. I went on to have some more success as the years went on.
III. What does your schedule look like now: Last year was my first year doing both Symetra (my rookie year) and World Long Drive. I was a complete mess. I would fly into the Long Drive event the night before, get a few hours of sleep, then rush to the next Symetra Tour event and sometimes only get to play nine holes before. I learned a lot about time management. I learned about what it’s like to play at a higher level when everyone is good. The only thing that separates the players is confidence level. You have some who walk in and know they’re going to be a top player and some who are just trying to make it. This is where World Long Drive has really helped; it helped build my confidence being on a stage in front of hundreds of people but also being on live television. It really helped me have a little courage.
IV. What are some of your golf dreams: I’ve always wanted to make it on the LPGA for my why reason. I play the game because I want to make golf an easier place for people that look like me to be able to play the game—if they want to be an LPGA star or PGA Tour star or they just want to play the game. On top of that, I want to be an LPGA Champion, I believe I can be the best player on the LPGA. To have that platform, and from there, I’d love to do what I’m doing now just at a larger scale, which would be providing opportunity and a space for people that may feel uncomfortable. I want to show people there are a lot of options to be introduced to the game. I would also love to own a media company to be able to produce media and content and stories that we don’t hear of. There are so many stories that motivate me everyday, but they aren’t being told. The ultimate goal is to continue to pursue these things at the level that I’m at—and know that they will grow as I grow.
V. How do we grow and evolve the game of golf: We can still keep tradition, but we need to move with the times a little bit more; really bring in today’s culture into golf like clothing, shoes, even golf clubs are changing the way they are set up as far as less holes or a really cool range. The golf industry and game needs to be open to change in general. We may fail at it sometimes, but we may hit the nail on the head too. We also need to start hiring more people who understand the consumers and future consumers of golf, which is growing to be more diverse.