The IX: Golf Thursday with Sarah Kellam, May 6, 2021
Importance of needle movers — Interview with Karen Stupples — Must-click women's golf links
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The importance of needle movers
Needle movers are important for the health of any sport, but they are absolutely critical in women’s golf.
In a game where name recognition is mostly limited to Tiger Woods and the overall fan preference tends to lean towards male professionals, the LPGA, Symetra, and Ladies European Tours are left to fight tooth and nail for coverage and airtime. But, having a cast of characters that fans want to follow makes it that much easier to sell the product and despite what some may think, there are plenty of women on the LPGA Tour that the world wants more of.
At the LOTTE Championship, Lydia Ko broke through for the first time in nearly three years, and boy, was the golf world fired up. While there were many comparisons to Jordan Spieth’s drought-ending win at the Valero Texas Open, the majority of the fanfare was born of legitimate excitement to see Lydia back in the winner’s circle.
Ko’s dominance early in her career had the golf world fired up thinking that we were about to witness another Annika Sorenstam level of player, but, as young talent typically does, Lydia came on hot and slowly fizzled out. In recent years, it’s been fired caddies and swing coaches and many, including Ko herself, questioned when her next trip to victory lane would be so as glimpses of a comeback began to rear their heads at the ANA Inspiration, fans waited with bated breath for the Lydia of old to make her return.
Of course, everyone loves a comeback story, even more so when it concerns someone like Ko who consistently puts on a show every time she tees it up. She’s a player that fans LOVE to watch do her thing because of the sheer amount of talent she possesses and her easy-going personality and willingness to open up about both her life and her game make Lydia incredibly easy to root for. The golf world loves her. She moves the needle.
Another player that draws a ton of attention to the LPGA Tour and women’s golf is Brooke Henderson. Being the winningest Canadian golfer in history definitely puts you on the radar of women’s golf fans, but Brooke’s success seems to transcend her sport. Her win at the Hugel-Air Premia LA Open marked the tenth LPGA Tour title of her career and the Canuck contingency, both golfers and otherwise, that follows Henderson’s weekly play came out in droves to congratulate her.
Brooke’s aggression on the golf course is something to be admired and isn’t always seen in the play of her counterparts. She often pulls driver off the deck and is not afraid to be aggressive and take the risks that many of her fellow competitors wouldn’t dare attempt, making her rounds always interesting to watch.
Henderson’s also just great with the fans and truly understands the significant role that she plays in bolstering women’s golf as an advocate for the game. Although a little quiet, Brooke’s star power and likability factor get people to engage with the Tour, and even though she may not be there quite yet, I think she’s got the potential to be even more of a world-beater than she already is. Brooke gets people to care and that’s important.
On top of those two needle movers that are drawing people in with their play on the course, the LPGA Tour and women’s golf also have those that are doing the same with their ventures off the course.
We can’t talk enough about the impact that Michelle Wie West has made with her #HoodieforGolf campaign in collaboration with the LPGA. So many people that never before would’ve cared about the women’s game are now wearing a blue and pink tie-dyed sweatshirt with a giant LPGA Tour logo on it.
NBA players, television personalities, and many PGA Tour professionals have posted on social media decked out in their LPGA swag and it’s doing so much for the visibility of the Tour and these athletes. But, it was Wie West and her ability to engage people about the topic of women’s golf that made it all happen.
Because she moves the needle and because she’s so well-known and well-respected in lots of different circles, one of the most genius ways of generating publicity for the LPGA organization both came to fruition and is a raging success.
From an amateur perspective, Amy Bockerstette made headlines around the world a couple of years ago after her memorable interaction with Gary Woodland at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, instantly becoming a darling to the golf community.
While it was her impressive play on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course and signature “I got this” mantra that endeared her forever to golf fans, Amy still remains in the spotlight two years later for all of her other incredible achievements, including launching her own nonprofit and most recently becoming the first collegiate athlete with Down syndrome to compete in a national championship.
Her infectious positivity and inspiring resiliency have kept her in the forefront of many minds around the world and she’s truly one of the best examples of the positive impact that golf can have on someone’s life. Amy’s story brings people to the game and encourages diversity within it, effectively growing golf and making it better which is so needed in the sport right now.
Thus, we are lucky to have women like these four that are starting conversations about women’s golf and diversity in the game and that are garnering recognition of the product. Without the needle movers, the movers and shakers, the ones with the ability to capture the attention of golf fans everywhere, women’s golf would suffer.
We need them and we most definitely need the fan engagement that they bring to the table through their various accomplishments. They’re a necessary component in making women’s golf go. Their involvement is crucial to the health of the women’s game going forward.
And the funny thing? There are so many more just like them with stories waiting to be told.
This week in women’s golf
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Pine Valley is finally allowing female members. (via GolfDigest.com)
Female members are now allowed at Pine Valley. (via GOLF.com)
Amy Bockerstette will be the first person with Down syndrome to participate in a collegiate national championship. (via Golfweek.com)
Jane Park’s Korean-American heritage is incredibly important to her and has shaped her life experiences in more ways than one. (via LPGA.com)
There will be a benefit in June named after Renee Powell that will contribute to the Clearview Legacy Foundation. (via LPGA.com)
Mariah Stackhouse is a woman worth paying attention to and never was that more evident than at a KPMG Women’s PGA Championship preview day at the Atlanta Athletic Club. (via LPGA.com)
Brittany Lang is a proud mother and this is her Drive On story. (via LPGA.com)
Having won this event three other times, Amy Yang is definitely one to keep your eye on in Thailand. (via GolfChannel.com)
Jasmine Suwannapura is another player competing on home turf this week, but will not be able to go home and see her family because of COVID-19 protocols. (via LPGA.com)
How to watch the Honda LPGA Thailand. (via LPGA.com)
Hyo Joo Kim wins again in Singapore. (via LPGA.com)
Hyo Joo Kim notches her first victory in five years in Singapore. (via Golfweek.com)
More on Hyo Joo Kim winning in Singapore. (via GolfDigest.com)
Check out this bank shot from Lydia Ko on the 18th hole in the third round in Singapore. (via GolfDigest.com)
Paula Creamer will be playing in the U.S. Women’s Open on a special exemption. (via Golfweek.com)
Here’s more on how Paula Creamer earned a spot into the USWO. (via LPGA.com)
After nearly two years off, Paula Creamer is back playing on the LPGA Tour. (via GolfDigest.com)
Hear from Paula Creamer about how exciting for her an exemption into the USWO is. (via GolfChannel.com)
This 65 year old runner is trying her hand at qualifying for the USWO. (via Golfweek.com)
This sectional qualifier for the U.S. Women’s Open saw floods and tornadoes, causing there to be a delay. (via Golfweek.com)
Mariah Stackhouse joined Golf Channel to discuss the upcoming KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. (via GolfChannel.com)
There will be fans at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship but the number will be limited. (via GolfDigest.com)
Maria Fassi had has left knee surgery after finding a tear. (via Golfweek.com)
Maria Fassi will be out for the next six weeks after injuring her knee. (via GolfDigest.com)
More about Savannah Barber and Alexa Saldana’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball victory. (via GolfDigest.com)
Meghan MacLaren’s thoughts on the vandalism at Dunedoo Golf Club, NSW. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
Team Europe captain Catriona Matthew’s first ever blog for the Ladies European Tour website. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
A sculpture has been installed at Gleneagles celebrating Team Europe’s Solheim Cup victory. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
The Ladies Italian Open returns to the LET schedule for the first time in seven years. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
PING will be the apparel supplier for Team Europe at the Solheim Cup. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
The final installment of the LET’s rewind series, looking back at some of the rising stars of last season. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
With her victory in Kansas, Lilia Vu made a move in the Race for the Card standings. (via SymetraTour.com)
Here’s a preview of the Symetra Classic. (via SymetraTour.com)
Here’s how the final round of the Garden City Charity Classic shook out. (via SymetraTour.com)
Everything you need to know about Lilia Vu, winner of the Garden City Charity Classic. (via SymetraTour.com)
Tweets of the Week
And for something just plain awesome:
Five at The IX: Karen Stupples, On-Course and Studio Analyst for Golf Channel, 2004 Women’s Open Champion
When did you begin your foray into golf television? Do you ever miss competing when you’re out on the course commentating and walking with the players? Are there certain tournaments that you still remember every shot from when you were on Tour?
I got my first taste of golf commentary at the 2007 Open Championship for BBC radio 5 live. I love debating the hows and whys of golf so it was fun! I had my first TV gig with Golf Channel in 2013 at the Marathon Classic in Toledo. I had missed the cut and asked the producer, Beth Hutter, if I could tag along and watch, but she suggested I try being a third on-course commentator. Again, I loved it albeit I was a bit nervous.
I don’t miss competing at all. I was really ready to stop playing because I guess I was burnt out. Tournament golf really takes its toll on you mentally. There are a couple of tournaments I miss playing in and I feel like there are a couple that got away.
I relive the ANA Inspiration and feel I should have won there at Mission Hills, and I had a great chance in a U.S. Open. That being said, I love playing Kingsmill even though I didn’t ever really contend there, but I love that course.
What has been the craziest or most exciting moment from your time as an analyst? Do you have a favorite memory?
I don’t think I can pin it down to any one moment that was the most exciting or crazy. The Solheim Cup in Gleneagles was pretty wild, and any time I do interviews I get really nervous. Walking with Tiger’s group is always exciting, so, you see, every day doing this job is different and exciting in its own way.
What’s something the casual fan wouldn’t know but should know about the LPGA Tour?
The casual fan of the LPGA should know that the players work 10 times harder than you think and that they sacrifice every day to live their dreams of being a champion.
From the perspective of a former player, how do you assess the health of women’s golf in 2021? Are we bridging some of the gaps between the men’s and women’s games in terms of support, coverage, and sponsorship?
As a former player, women’s golf is growing and I can feel the momentum swinging in our direction. It never feels fast enough especially for an impatient person like me, but big companies are finding value in women’s golf and the players feel respected because of this.
With that being said, more could be done. My dream for the LPGA would be to have featured group coverage from dawn till dusk and have a Shotlink-like system to track the players’ stats so that everyone can see just how good they are without having to take my word for it. It would allow the story of the competition to be told with numbers.
How life-changing for you was winning the Women’s British Open back in 2004? How did it change both the trajectory of your golf career and your life after golf?
Winning the Open didn’t really change my golf. I didn’t all of a sudden have sponsors throwing themselves at me, but it did set me up for my announcing job. I have experience in every aspect of what golf can throw at you, the good and the bad. I wouldn’t change a thing.