Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
Juli Inkster was interviewed recently about the state of women’s golf and the LPGA in particular. She came off sounding like a whiner, blaming many of the problems on women not getting the respect they deserve from golf fans and corporate sponsors. Is she right?
(Editor’s Note: For anyone who missed Juli Inkster’s interview, you can read it HERE.)
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Yes and no. The women’s game is better than it ever was, the quality of play is outstanding, purses are up, and the number of tournaments is substantially higher than it was a few years ago. But it amazes me how you’ll often see NO SPECTATORS following leading groups, particularly in the first two rounds. If it weren’t for corporate sponsors, I think the LPGA would be in big trouble… so I think Julie should be careful with her comments. Yes, I’m sure there are dozens of products aimed at women that could be supporting the LPGA Tour, but these are marketing decisions, based primarily on viewership numbers. If sponsors want to maximize their numbers, they should include television coverage in their sponsorship budgets.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Julie as much as I respect her, is way off on this one. But I think she’s just being sensational to try and open up the woman’s game to more partners and exposure. BUT if she’s serious, then she doesn’t understand business. Eyeballs/TV contracts rule, and last I checked corporations aren’t dolling out millions to affiliate with a product that doesn’t get them a return of some sort, whether that be a champion spokesperson, or sport that aligns with their corporate culture/mandate, their customers or exposure. And I don’t think they get a great audience watching their events when they’re opposite any other major sport. Every sport whines about something at some point, this is similar to the NHL isn’t it? Why isn’t the NHL bigger, why aren’t there more fans, etc. The market tells all.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Don’t think whining is strong enough. Inkster comes off as absolutely and embarrassingly out of touch. To complain, well bitch, that it’s unfair that (for their $10 Gs), male CEOs prefer to play Pro Ams with PGA Tour superstars than LPGA stars from S. Korea is stunning in its myopia and tells you all you need to know about the demise of the LPGA Tour. What? It’s unfair that no one is watching? Excuse me, it’s about entertainment. It’s unfair that no sponsors are stepping up? Umm, it’s about return on investment. And by the way Juli, there have never been so many female CEOs. There have never been so many women running their own companies. Is Miss Julie talking to them? Does she think it’s unfair that they aren’t interested either in the LPGA Tour?
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Inkster’s remarks would be more appropriate if they only applied to the U.S. but the LPGA and women’s golf in general are huge in Asia. In fact, over half the title sponsors on the LPGA tour are multinational corporations, many of them Asian companies. Comparisons to the PGA Tour are pointless since the marketing demographics are light years apart. If she wants American CEOs to support the LPGA in America, then the LPGA needs to produce some American stars that resonate with U.S. audiences. Nothing makes a CEO take notice faster than a marketing opportunity he’s missing.
For the past few years the PGA Tour has not had a qualifying school, relying instead on the Web.com Tour and the Web.com Tour Finals to advance 50 players based on merit. Is this a better system or would you prefer to see some spots available for open qualifying directly to the PGA Tour?
Deeks: I kind of miss the Tour School and the chance that a few kids or journeymen could put it together for 6 pressure-packed rounds and make the big leagues. But I think the current system of elevation from tour to tour to tour is fairer and more equitable. It means you have to be more consistent for a longer period, and therefore you’re more deserving.
Loughry: As much as I like a good run, and see a player rocket through to the PGA Tour, it happened so infrequently. Its probably better to reward players who show prolonged season/periods of excellence than a jack rabbit who catches fire at the end of the season for a few weeks to earn a card, go 22 missed cuts and back to Q-school. A few more small tweaks to this process are probably in order (handing out fewer cards). The reason I say this, is that those finishing just high enough to earn one of those cards (bottom of the best) only get a handful of starts on the big circuit, and don’t know some weeks when/where or if they are eligible to play (alternate lists or if it will be a web.com start).
Quinn: The cauldron of Q School certainly tested and proved the mettle of many players, but it was open to too many once-in-a-year vagaries; like the flu, an injury, a family matter, one bad week of putting (Oh, for a year when it was just one bad week). The .com route may lack the drama, but it is a much better and more equitable way to really earn a card — with time to balance the good and bad breaks — and forge the temperament required for success at the Show.
Mumford: I loved the drama of Q-school. Most pro sports use the minor leagues (or college) to develop talent but they also have rookie tryouts to give the best newcomers a chance to play in the big leagues. I wouldn’t abandon the current system but would enjoy some kind of open qualifying directly to the PGA Tour.
The USGA and R&A recently completed a test period on the revised Rules of Golf and are currently reviewing comments before announcing their findings. Are there any rules in particular that you think significantly improved play or any you don’t like for whatever reason?
Deeks: I haven’t looked closely at all 36 changes but I think they’re certainly on the right track. Tamping down “spike marks” (what are they??) and other imperfections on the green is fair and long overdue, and the changes involving lost balls are better (but could still be improved by simply saying “lost ball – penalty one stroke – drop a new ball at point of entry and carry on”.) I don’t like the fact that they ignored the “ball resting in divot” rule. I’m on the side of the “it’s ground under repair” squad, and believe the ball should be moved, if desired, within six inches, IF it’s on the fairway. You’ve supposedly hit the ball to the area it should be played to, so why should you be effectively penalized on your next shot? (I know, I know, “how do you define a divot?” Well, who really cares… let the player decide. We’re all honourable people who would never, um, cheat.)
Loughry: The majority of the proposed changes make a whole lot of sense and should help the games flow, and make it easier for the everyday golfer to use.
Quinn: I really don’t like the new drop rule. When I started hacking it around, we had to drop it over our shoulder, not looking back, while hoping to miss our heel. Now it’s a drop of a few inches from an outstretched hand. Why not just have the caddie tee it up? They still haven’t fixed the Ground Under Repair ruling — in other words a divot hole (it’s not a divot, that is the hunk of sod that is no longer there, ya wanker). And I’m still puzzled that the sand hurled onto the greens by bunker shots is not whipped away. It can affect an approach shot from subsequent groups. Who cares at the Frys.com, but in a Major, the lumps of sand on a green could change a birdie putt into a par putt on Thursday and thus decide the champion on Sunday. The other changes fall short of penalizing slow play with strokes, so the rest is just more appendixes.
Mumford: I believe the Rules could be really simplified by applying the lateral hazard rules to ALL lost balls. It would speed up play too. The new drop rule is idiotic. If you’re getting relief, then you should be allowed to place the ball. Dropping from one inch is almost there – why not go all the way? Probably the biggest miss with the new changes is the lack of attention to unfair lies in the fairway. I’ve always had trouble with a good drive being penalized by rolling into a divot hole. To me, that’s GUR and should get free relief.