The IX: Golf Thursday with Sarah Kellam, May 13, 2021
Ignorance isn't bliss — Interview with Chantel McCabe — Must-click women's golf links
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Ignorance isn’t bliss
Last week, a good friend of mine sent me an article from The Athletic about the differences in the payouts from the NBC and Golf Channel television contracts the PGA Tour negotiated for itself and the LPGA Tour last year.
The information in the article originated from the deposition of PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan in regards to the lawsuit that Hank Haney filed against the Tour, alleging that his termination by SiriusXM following his inappropriate comments on PGA Tour Radio about the members of the LPGA was at the behest of the PGA Tour organization.
While the numbers were startling, with Jay claiming that “north of 90 percent” of the income generated by the Comcast agreements goes to the PGA Tour, something else that he said or rather, failed to say, is even more bothersome.
As part of Haney’s lawyers’ attempts to show that the PGA organization isn’t interested in fostering a relationship with the LPGA, they asked Monahan about some of the top female professionals that would be competing in the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open.
“Can you give me the top five ranked players playing in that tournament this week?” Haney’s lawyer asked.
“I can’t specifically give you the top five players ranked in that tournament,” Monahan replied.
Haney’s lawyer then asked, “Who is the top-ranked woman playing in the tournament?”
Monahan: “I’m not sure what the latest iteration of the world ranking is.”
Haney’s lawyer: “Who are the top several players playing?”
Monahan: “I’m focused on the business of the PGA Tour, PGA Tour Champions, Korn Ferry, PGA Tour Latino America, PGA Tour China, PGA Tour Canada, our relationship with the European Tour and our industry relationships. The person who is in a position to tell you the top players in the world would be Mike Whan. He runs the LPGA Tour.”
Let’s be clear. There isn’t any expectation for Jay Monahan in his role to be able to cite the top ten players in the Rolex World Rankings off the top of his head. None. However, to not be able to name a single LPGA Tour player that would’ve been competing in the U.S. Women’s Open at that time is pretty bad, especially considering the laundry list of excellent golfers that won events last season. Sei Young Kim, Danielle Kang, even Lexi Thompson or Inbee Park were all easy enough answers.
What makes it even worse is claiming that you’re focused on “industry relationships” which would intrinsically imply your sister tour, but still failing to come up with a single name of any professional on that tour, implying that you simply just don’t care to pay attention. It also says a lot about how dismissive men’s golf is of its female counterpart and, If one speaks for all, then this “relationship” seems to be virtually non-existent.
Moreover, there are tons of conversations concerning what the LPGA Tour could do to bolster their notoriety in the golf world, and inevitably, the idea of a mixed team event with the PGA Tour being added to the calendar is always brought up. Well, it takes two to tango and, if where the commissioner says his focus lies in this deposition is any indication, those of us that are waiting for a PGA/LPGA mashup are in for the long haul. It doesn’t sound like there’s any interest in collaboration from that side of the aisle.
Don’t get it twisted though. This isn’t a bashing of Jay Monahan. He’s done a lot for golf through his leadership in his own organization and with the growth of the game needed in every capacity, his effort is appreciated. He’s also got a large contingency of players that he’s responsible for day in and day out that definitely require a lot of attention among other duties that come with being the head of a global sports league.
But when he fails this basic test, he’s not only showing disdain for the LPGA, he’s making it clear he isn’t devoting any time to a partnership that can grow his organization, too.
What’s troublesome are the implications of such statements and what effect they could have on the LPGA Tour and diversity within golf overall. If “industry relationships” don’t involve the women’s game, what do they include? What do they exclude? As the leading organization in golf, are you striving to leave the game better than you found it? It’s worrisome, to say the least, and even more so if those in charge of contract negotiations for television rights have such little regard for who they’re representing.
With that being said, the LPGA Tour doesn’t need the PGA Tour brass to know the 15 names at the top of the world rankings in order or who the number one player in the world is or who’s leading the Race to the CME Globe even though it would be nice.
What it does need is for that leadership to see its value and to foster that “industry relationship” instead of turning a blind eye to it because in this case anyway, ignorance isn’t bliss.
It’s just plain crippling.
This week in women’s golf
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Amy Bockerstette has made history as the first person with Down syndrome to compete for an NCAA national championship title and the LPGA’s Leia Schwartz reflects on their friendship. (via LPGA.com)
This week, Amy Bockerstette teed it up in the NJCAA Championship, the first person with Down syndrome to participate in a national championship in any collegiate sport. (via Golfweek.com)
More on Amy Bockerstette’s historic NJCAA Championship berth. (via GolfDigest.com)
BetMGM has been announced as the first betting operator of the LPGA Tour. (via Golfweek.com)
Annika Sorenstam is BACK….again! Yes, really. Again, but this time in the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. (via Golfweek.com)
Annika will play in her first major since retirement at Brooklawn Country Club. (via GolfDigest.com)
More on Annika Sorenstam signing up for the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. (via GolfChannel.com)
It was an emotional win for Ariya Jutanugarn in Thailand and for good reason. (via GOLF.com)
Ariya Jutanugarn wanted to quit amidst her struggles the past couple of years, but in Thailand, she finally broke through again, notching another victory. (via GolfChannel.com)
Even though she didn’t defend her title, Amy Yang is still happy with her finish in Thailand. (via LPGA.com)
Patty Tavatanakit is on her way to superstardom and continued to play well in her home country of Thailand. (via GolfDigest.com)
Even after a frustrating penalty, Cheyenne Woods earned her way into the USWO after winning her qualifier by five shots. (via GolfDigest.com)
Cristie Kerr is set to tee it up at Olympic after being given an exemption. (via Golfweek.com)
Time is running out to qualify for the Olympics and things are getting tight on the LPGA Tour. (via GolfDigest.com)
Here’s a piece that I wrote about the sorority of mothers on the LPGA Tour. (via LPGAWomensNetwork.com)
A piece honoring all of the amazing moms in the golf world. (via Golfweek.com)
This South Carolina high school golfer is beating all of the boys on her team and is the number one player. (via Golfweek.com)
Steve Eubanks tells LPGA Tour veteran Tiffany Joh’s story and details her experience as an Asian-American both on and off the golf course. (via LPGA.com)
Check out this Instagram Live with Jane Park. (via LPGA.com)
Minjee Lee is giving back in her home country of Australia through Golf Australia’s high-performance pathway. (via LPGA.com)
Here are the top storylines for this week’s Symetra Classic. (via SymetraTour.com)
Check out this preview of the IOA Golf Classic. (via SymetraTour.com)
The 2021 Sunshine Tour season finale is this week and so begins the Race to Costa del Sol. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
Here’s what to keep your eye on at the South African Women’s Open this week. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
Take a look at the Ladies European Tour in numbers. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
Marianne Skarpnord won the Sunshine Tour’s Dimension Data Ladies Open in a playoff. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
Liz Young won her first pro title in the Rose Ladies Series event at Woburn. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
The Race to Costa del Sol is back with the South African Women’s Open. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
The reaction to the Baton Rouge regional being completely scrapped was both angry and emotional and rightfully so. (via GolfDigest.com)
The Wednesday recap of the women’s college golf regionals. (via Golfweek.com)
The Tuesday recap of the women’s college golf regionals. (via Golfweek.com)
The Monday recap of the women’s college golf regionals. (via Golfweek.com)
The Evansville women’s golf team made it to regionals after playing in the snow. (via Golfweek.com)
The Stanford women’s golf team reflects on the good before the postseason grind begins. (via Golfweek.com)
Here’s who’s playing in the Division II Women’s National Championship. (via Golfweek.com)
Here’s who’s in the field at the Division III Women’s National Championship. (via Golfweek.com)
Jenny Bae of Georgia caught up with Golf Channel after her 68 at regionals. (via GolfChannel.com)
Lauren Hartlage finished fourth at her regional and advanced to the national championships. Beforehand, she spoke with Golf Channel about the advantage of playing on your home course. (via GolfChannel.com)
Tweets of the Week
Five at The IX: Chantel McCabe, Host of The LPGA Show on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio
What lead you to golf?
Truly, it was an ex-boyfriend in college that I was dating. For whatever reason, we both just decided that since we were very outdoorsy we might as well at least pick up clubs and give it a whirl. But, my very first introduction was the LPGA Futures Tour at the time, a Symetra Tour event in New Hampshire, my home state. I had taken an internship with a sports marketing firm and I was selling hole sponsorships. I met Sara “No H” Brown and I met Mo Martin along with a couple of others. I had no idea who they were and had zero interest in golf. My early golf memories would have to be my Uncle Bill insisting on putting golf on at any family gathering and I would say this is beyond boring, Like, if you’re gonna watch a sport, watch an actual sport. That opinion has changed completely.
I remember it was Sara “No H” Brown who put a golf club in my hands at that Symetra Tour event. She approached me and I was wearing the logoed shirt and she said, “What do you do for the tournament?” At the time, I was so miserable because hole sponsorships were not what I wanted to be doing. I told her that it was my internship and she asked if I played and I said no. Then she asked why and I said I’ve never been taught and I don’t want to miss the ball. She gave me one of her clubs and she said, “Let’s do this. Try to take a swing. If you miss, then I’ll miss intentionally afterward so we are embarrassed together.” I thought that was a pretty good deal. Literally, we would go down swinging together. That was my first time with a golf club in my hand and at first, I didn’t really like it because it’s not as if you have that luxury of someone holding your hand every time you go out.
I began playing a little bit more. My dad and I would just kinda hang out on the golf course. I wouldn’t really call it playing. We didn’t keep score. We would smoke cigars, have beers and that was everything for me, hanging out with my dad and being competitive here and there. We would see who could hit it the furthest. Proximity and course management were not on my radar whatsoever until I started covering golf. I was a typical beginner. I had no idea what I was doing. My course etiquette was embarrassing, but it’s one of those things that you wouldn’t know if you’ve never been taken out. I can remember we would drive dangerously close to the green and now that I think about it, it haunts me, but it’s so funny how something that started like that has completely consumed my life.
Where did the idea for the LPGA Show come from? How did you get involved?
I am not somebody who is beating the drum about how there needs to be equal pay and that everything needs to be equal at all times because, unfortunately, our culture is not there and there are a lot of things in life that no matter how much we try to get things to be even no matter the industry, it’s just really slow in getting there. I will say I am a fan of good athletes and good storytelling and that just doesn’t happen in the women’s game. The resources aren’t dedicated. I don’t really look at it like women’s golf needs more attention. I just think that there are good stories that need attention and that gap is happening in women’s golf, just like it’s happening on the Korn Ferry Tour.
I would sit in a studio and I’m not a person who enjoys hosting compared to other responsibilities, but arguing the same points about the same ten players is not enjoyable for me. I’m just not wired that way. I get it because there’s a reason why networks choose to cover a lot of the same topics because there is that appeal so it’s what came first, the chicken or the egg in those circumstances.
I think it’s pretty obvious that my passion just overflows when I’m out covering the Korn Ferry Tour and the LPGA because I love finding stories and getting good interviews out of people who don’t get the due coverage so The LPGA Show is a natural fit. At other places I’ve worked, I’ve always been an advocate, pointing out that we are hardly touching the number one player in the world on the women’s side of the game. It was just a natural fit and I’m happy to do it.
I haven’t been out on the LPGA Tour as much so I’ll admit I had some resistance to it, because hey, I’m not the most qualified person. I’m not an LPGA expert but, I do have a knack and a love and a desire to bring these stories to life and to give any good athlete whether that’s male, female, Symetra Tour, Korn Ferry Tour, college, anywhere the credit that they deserve.
Why is it so important to talk about women’s golf on a platform that’s predominantly PGA Tour focused?
I don’t think this is exclusive to SiriusXM. In fact, I’m not saying this because I’m a company person and drink the Kool-Aid. The folks at SiriusXM deserve a lot of credit because they are the first to dedicate every single week a certain amount of time to just the LPGA Tour. Nobody else is doing that. And they have had plenty of guests on just like other places have had LPGA guests on from time to time, but the fact that they are making this a staple and a hub and they’ve had this idea for a while. Hally Leadbetter had a show with Angela Garcia for a time. They had a show with Annika Sorenstam several years back so there was certainly a presence there but they said we really need to take this in this direction.
The biggest frustration with covering the women’s game is we just simply don’t have the stats. People love stats and historically, winning percentage things like that, of course, that’s there. Especially with a slower sport, you love numbers like proximity to the hole. You love having that Trackman out and looking at people’s numbers. Shotlink is not on the LPGA and I think that is a massive frustration to not just us covering the game, but also for fans too. I would love to see how the women’s game would be especially in the gambling era if Shotlink were added. I know the reason why is because it’s a massive expense, but I am so convinced that the women’s game would really be elevated and would be talked about in an entirely different way if it weren’t for the restrictions with resources which again, follow the money. Everything comes down to money.
So yes, it’s important. SiriusXM approached me about this so this wasn’t me banging on the door. I had floated out the idea and they were already on top of it. I’m very proud to be working with people who want this to work and don’t see this as a need to check the box. It’s automatic and of course, it should’ve happened sooner, but we are doing it now.
How can women’s golf better engage the casual golf fan? Do you think people are becoming more interested in this side of the game?
I think that golf fans will appreciate the LPGA Tour if they sit down and watch. Those people, we’ve got them. We don’t need to worry about it.
It is a massive blessing in disguise through coronavirus that the game of golf grew. More people are interested. Of course, you’re going to hear people say all the time that the average amateur can relate a lot more to the LPGA players who can’t crank a ball out 350 and have the finesse to their game, have different parts of their game that amateurs can obtain. It’s more interesting when you learn from them. That’s why I’ve fallen in love with golf compared to other sports I’ve covered because I can watch something and translate it into my next round of golf which is not the case for many other professional sports. For example, if you’re a hockey player and you’re trying to have a wicked wrister in your next men’s league game. That skill just does not transfer without the training. The beauty of golf is that you can capitalize on that and I don’t know the way to do it. I think if we knew the way to do it it would have already been done. It is encouraging to see resources and I’m not talking about purses. People love to get caught up in the purse discussion. Of course, that makes a difference, but that’s not helping engage fans more.
You talk to any Mexican player and the first thing out of their mouth is serenading Lorena Ochoa and rightfully so, male or female. It’s so weird that in the U.S. we have this weird cultural situation of how we treat sports differently and that is the age-old question. Where does this come from? What are we doing in our conversations and the way we raise kids and our interactions to have that environment? People up in Canada love Brooke Henderson and in many Asian countries, LPGA is like the king/queen. I’m learning about that. I’m learning what it would take and I don’t want this to be something where we are just filling an hour of a show with LPGA. I want there to be the best stories. I want this to be the best place you can go for LPGA coverage.
I’m learning on the fly with this. I’ve never done radio before and I’ve never immersed myself in covering any women’s sport. I do think there are subtle differences. It is a little bit different. You have to call a spade a spade. In the men’s game, we are starting to see players congratulate each other after they win but, in the women’s game, they hug after every round. It’s a little bit of a different tone to it. I do think that there’s a massive wave of cultural shift happening which you can’t argue isn’t happening and I’d love to see how things play out in five years as we start making these priorities come to life.
What would you change about the golf media landscape if you could?
I don’t know what I would change. I totally understand from working in the media that you have to “pay your bills” is what everyone says. I think when sponsors start dictating where and how money is gonna be used, that’s when we’ll see that play out. Money is king. I hate to say it. As someone who appreciates capitalism, I get it. We’re starting to see that blend of dollars talking and where that money is going.
As far as what I would change, I think just talking about golf, the best stories of the day. Automatically, coverage begins with whatever’s happening on the PGA Tour, but for significance’s sake, what just happened last week in Thailand with Ariya Jutanugarn, that storyline, not many people know about it because it’s the third topic that gets discussed. It’s not gonna be an exciting story every single week, just like on the PGA Tour, not every win is the most exciting thing in the world, But, when there are really good stories, treat it as such! It’s pretty simple. It wouldn’t necessarily be changing anything, it’s just good storytelling.
What current LPGA players would be in your dream foursome right now?
Marina Alex. She has been a massive blessing. I mentioned that I don’t consider myself an LPGA expert. She as a resource has been incredible for just helping me understand some of the nuances that you wouldn’t know unless you were out there on a weekly basis which I didn’t have the luxury of doing. She and I see eye to eye on a lot of things. I love how she explains things. Anyone who knows her on Twitter, she’ll bring up a lot of controversial topics, but she’ll also suggest solutions and I appreciate that where it’s not shouting things out to the universe, but trying to find a middle ground. It’s a lost art these days so I respect the hell out of Marina and I’m really fortunate I’ve gotten to get to know her a little bit better through the show.
Gaby Lopez is one of my favorites too. She was one of the first interviews I did during the handful of LPGA Tour events I did get to do. I really like Gaby. Bronte Law is such a pitbull and I love her. Bronte is fierce and I feel myself in her.
Runners-up. I would love to have a front-row seat to Nelly Korda’s swing. It literally reminds me of when I did ballet. It’s so elegant and effortless. Angela Stanford was one of the first people who ever said hello to me on the LPGA so that has sentimental value.
Lexi Thompson is such an interesting character because she is very guarded. I can’t imagine the life of any of these people who were superstars at such a young age and them having not only to perform but having family expectations. The lifestyle is not conducive long-term. It’s just not. I’ve had some personal conversations with Lexi and I really like her and I wish people had the opportunity to get to know her in the small ways that I have. Lexi is certainly up there for me.