The IX: Golf Thursday with Sarah Kellam, January 21, 2021
Prescriptions for equality in women's golf — Interview with Megan McGuire — Must-click women's golf links
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A note on glass ceilings
With this week seeing both Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the Inauguration of the first-ever female vice president, I have been thinking a lot about equality.
The word is triggering for many, with some people claiming that the notion already exists and questioning the need for discussion about it and some wondering when they will ever see a world when race, gender, and sexual orientation mean little in the workplace or society. It elicits frustration from those who see evidence of inequality on a day-to-day basis and indifference from those who have never had to question their place in the world or the space that they take up in it.
In other words, it’s quite a touchy subject and I find myself relieved that society is actually seeming to make progress in regards to the issues that have plagued us since the beginning.
Politically, Kamala Harris is a perfect example of forward movement, both for women and people of color. It doesn’t matter your political affiliation, what happened yesterday was downright cool and you have to respect the historic meaning of it. Should it have happened sooner? Definitely, but, hey, better late than never.
When it comes to sports, women are also gaining ground in all facets of amateur and professional athletics, from playing to management to coaching and even officiating.
We’ve seen so many incredible firsts recently: Sarah Fuller kicking extra points for the Vanderbilt football team. Becky Hammon assuming head coaching duties in an NBA game. Sarah Thomas officiating the Super Bowl. Kim Ng general managing a baseball team. And this is only a short list.
After considering all of the headway being made in these traditionally male-dominated arenas, my thoughts turned to women’s golf and I began to wonder if we were ahead of the curve or still lagging behind compared to the progress we are seeing in other areas.
I think the expanded 34-event 2021 LPGA Tour schedule and $76.45 million in purses for the season is a major step in a positive direction. Couple that with a 30 percent increase in TV viewership and it seems that the health of the women’s game is fairly stable.
In terms of recent history that’s been made, having Suzy Whaley become the first female president of the PGA of America was certainly significant and her impact resounded through the game during her time in office. Furthermore, the institution of an amateur women’s event at Augusta National in 2019 was groundbreaking, considering the traditionally exclusive past at Augusta.
There are plenty more examples of this kind of forward progression in women’s golf. But, when you take a long hard look at everything we’ve accomplished, you realize there’s still so much room for improvement.
If you don’t believe me, consider this. If you go to the PGA of America’s list of executive leadership and their Board of Directors, among the 30 names you’ll find there, only four are women. Four. If we are trying to grow the game and everyone will tell you that the best way to do that is by growing the women’s game, why aren’t there more women in leadership positions to do so?
I also think about the relationship between the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour. Why haven’t we seen any attempt at collaboration between the two? Surely Mike Whan would’ve been open to working together on a mixed gender or charity event.
Take the Hero World Challenge, for example. How riveting would it be to watch 18 top male and 18 top female golfers in the world duke it out in either a stroke, match, or team play format? Considering Tiger is attached to the event and it would allow women to share the spotlight with the men, it would do wonders for the elevation of the women’s game. And I’d pay big money to watch Rory McIlroy play Jin Young Ko. Just saying.
Furthermore, many male players like Justin Rose and Tony Finau praise the women’s game and seem to have a ton of respect for their female counterparts. We’ve seen what can come when male athletes openly support an equivalent female league. Look at the NBA’s backing of the WNBA and the impact that had. Imagine the change of perception of women’s golf that could happen if the PGA did that for the LPGA.
What about the women’s majors? What if, across the sport, they were elevated to the status of men’s majors and were given just as much or even half of the attention and coverage the men receive? We got a taste of it from the USGA in December and it was awesome!
If every women’s major championship were treated like the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open in terms of fan and viewer engagement and the amount of PGA Tour members tweeting about it, the five most important tournaments in the women’s game would be given the respect they’re truly due.
Overall, I do think we are making much needed progress in our fight for equality in the women’s game, but we simply can’t rest on our laurels and think we’ve done enough. There are so many ways that golf as a whole could elevate this part of the sport and, even though we are gaining ground, we have so much more to cover.
While glass ceilings are being shattered in other places, we’ve only just begun to bump our heads against ours in women’s golf. However, I’m confident that eventually that glass will start to fracture and that shards will begin to fall. I know that the effort isn’t for naught and that big change for women’s golf is coming because of the changes we are seeing both in other sports and in our communities.
And I know this: glass ceilings are fragile. And all fragile things eventually break.
This week in women’s golf
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Mariah Stackhouse reflects on what Martin Luther King Jr. means to her and the significance of the African American players who came before her. (via LPGA.com)
The 2021 LPGA Tour season kicks off this week with the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. (via LPGA.com)
Here’s a recap the drama of the last two year’s Tournament of Champions to get you excited for its third edition. (via LPGA.com)
Beth Ann Nichols previews the start of a new season on the LPGA Tour and Kang reflects on her “off-season”. (via Golfweek)
Here are the answers to some of the questions you may have as we head into the 2021 LPGA Tour season. (via Golf.com)
Gaby Lopez looks to defend her title this week in Orlando. (via LPGA.com)
Brooke Henderson wants to restart her streak of one win a season for five consecutive seasons that ended last year due to the pandemic. (via LPGA.com)
Henderson re-ups her contract with Ping. (via Golfweek)
Sophia Popov’s personality helps her to fit right in at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. (via LPGA.com)
Popov, after winning the 2020 AIG Women’s Open, is making her first start in the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions this week. (via Golfweek)
Mel Reid chats with Beth Ann Nichols about her engagement, moving, and hopes for the new season. (via Golfweek)
Madelene Sagstrom’s home course knowledge gives her an edge in Orlando this week. (via LPGA.com)
Brittany Lincicome is very much looking forward to the 2021 LPGA Tour season and getting back into a “rhythm”. (via LPGA.com)
Brittany Lincicome seems to have a new mindset heading into the 2021 LPGA Tour season. (via GolfChannel.com)
Here’s how to watch the Diamond Resorts TOC this week. (via LPGA.com)
Annika Sorenstam will tee it up in the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, not as a LPGA Tour player, but as a celebrity. (via Golf Digest)
Despite the controversy surrounding her acceptance of the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Donald Trump a day after the Capitol attacks, Annika Sorenstam has turned her attention back to golf and is “moving forward”. (via Golfweek)
More on Annika Sorenstam’s acceptance of the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Trump despite criticism. (via GolfChannel.com)
Blair O’Neal will be teeing it up this week in Orlando, her first time ever as a mom. (via Golfweek)
More on Mike Whan leaving his post as the Commissioner of the LPGA Tour. (via NYTimes.com)
Gaby Lopez will carry the Mexican flag for the 2021 Olympics in Japan. (via GolfChannel.com)
Lindy Duncan had the opportunity to speak with a group of 20 young women from the LPGA*USGA Girls Golf program at First Tee of Central Ohio last week. (via LPGA.com)
Cheyenne Woods won an event last week on the Cactus Tour, but will be acting as a caddy this week in Orlando. (via Golfweek)
If you don’t know who Tania Tare is, check out the famous trick shot artist’s latest Instagram post. (via Golfweek)
Get to know LET player Lucrezia Colombotto Rosso from Italy. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
The Adrian College women’s golf team grieves player Lauren Yankee after her tragic passing in December. (via Golfweek)
Augusta National Women’s Amateur invitations are being received by the field and these two players are especially excited for the 2021 edition. (via Golfweek)
Arizona State head women’s golf coach Missy Farr-Kaye is battling cancer for a third time and has begun chemotherapy treatment. (via Golfweek)
13-year-old Avery Zweig nabs AJGA Annika Invitational title, winning by four shots. (via Golfweek)
This female high school golfer will receive a $5,000 scholarship from Cleveland Cavalier Andre Drummond. (via Golfweek)
Tweet of the Week
Five at the IX: Megan McGuire, LPGA Tour Media Official
What is the role of an LPGA Tour Media Official? Take us through your day-to-day both in the office and at tournaments?
In the broadest sense, I think our team would agree we’re here to help tell the stories of the LPGA. As Tour Media Officials, we are the liaison between media, tournaments and the players, and our main focus is tournament communications. The work for one event can start a couple weeks before, coordinating everything onsite media-wise for pre-tournament responsibilities, and once play starts, we’re interviewing players, connecting with media, writing stories and getting the word out there of what’s happening on Tour week in and week out. My family likes to joke I get paid to be an LPGA encyclopedia, and that’s one of my favorite aspects about the job, learning the stories of our players and the interesting tidbits that make them unique. Outside of an event, we’re also part of the public relations piece of the LPGA. We help with announcements, even brainstorming sessions…It’s a wide scope of duties, and it certainly means a lot of multi-tasking. Each day looks different from the last, and it’s a fun challenge. We may be a smaller team, but I’m so proud to be a part of it.
With the recent announcement of his departure and having worked with Mike Whan, what will you miss most about the commissioner? Do you have any stories about Commissioner Whan you can share?
I can’t help but be happy for Mike despite the fact I know every person he’s met here at the LPGA will miss him – he’s accomplished so much in over a decade as the Commissioner of this Tour, and it’s been an absolute privilege to watch him lead over the past couple of years. I know I’ll miss his ability to relate to anyone he talked to. Back at our headquarters, I was only two cubicles down from his office, and he always had an open-door policy. Fun fact, but he’s really into the Bachelor franchise, so if someone walked by who also watched I could learn what happened on the last episode. It’s the little things. One of the last times we talked in person was at the CME Group Tour Championship, where over lunch a couple of us ate and talked with him for what seemed like forever. I don’t know what it’s like for other sports organizations, but to be able to have that kind of relationship with the Commissioner where it’s comfortable and normal I think is something not lost on anyone at the LPGA. And, I’ll miss having to explain my nickname. He gives them to just about everyone on Tour – mine is Shaq.
Do you have a favorite memory or cool story from your time at the LPGA Tour?
I would say some of my favorite memories on Tour have come when I get to be a part of someone’s first win. It’s such a special experience, and it truly makes you understand how truly life changing a win on the LPGA Tour is. As soon as the final putt drops, someone from our team is usually the one shuttling the winner from the interview on the green, to the trophy presentation, to the winner’s press conference, almost until they leave the golf course. There’s nothing like witnessing all the emotions that come with any victory, and then helping to tell their stories and convey how their journey led to this moment. I was there for wins like Cheyenne Knight’s in Texas, for Mel Reid’s breakthrough in New Jersey and probably one of the biggest in my career – Sophia Popov’s story of the year at the AIG Women’s Open. Each one as unique and different from the last.
What are you most looking forward to in the 2021 LPGA Tour season? Is there an event in particular you are especially excited about?
In general, I’m excited to continue the momentum the LPGA had in 2020. Despite its obstacles and working through a pandemic, to pick up 2021 with record purses and 34 official events is phenomenal. I think I’m most looking forward to the Solheim Cup and the Olympics. There are so many fascinating storylines around both events. I got to work the first Drive On Championship at Inverness last July, and I’m ecstatic to see that course in a match-play setting with some of the best from the U.S. and Europe. As for the Olympics, I see how much it means to our players to represent their country on such a prestigious stage, so I can’t wait to watch who plays their way into the 60-player field.
How empowering is it to work for such a female-driven organization? What has been your most gratifying moment while working for the LPGA?
It’s definitely empowering as a woman in sports communication. Not only are we female-driven based on our players, but I get to work under an incredible, women-led department, who have taught me so much in the little time I’ve spent with the Tour. Throughout our organization, you can find stories of women in leadership positions that have broken glass ceilings and it’s extremely motivating for me to see how far women in sports can go and what we can achieve successfully. It only pushes me to do better with my position and work towards making sure our players get the coverage they deserve.
I would say something personally gratifying to me while working for the Tour was the first time returning to the CME Group Tour Championship as a member of the LPGA Tour Media team. Three months out of college, I moved from Pennsylvania to Naples, Fla. away from family and friends to take a limited-time communications position with the CME tournament team. It was my first experience with golf; I barely knew about the Tour and I put my heart and soul into learning about the LPGA and its players. I could have never predicted the passion it would bring out of me and how it would become the start of my journey in this industry. I met the people I work alongside now, and a year later when I returned as a Tour Media Official, it felt like a full-circle moment. Now, each time I get to return is just as satisfying, and I like to reflect on the hard work it took throughout the season to get to the last event of the year.