- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 22, 2003

Does the PGA Tour — where the world’s top male golfers compete — have a problem with women? Absolutely not, but you could get that impression as two of golf’s biggest stories this year have some in the world of men’s professional golf squaring off against women.

First, it was Martha Burke, who heads up a coalition called the National Council of Women’s Organizations, and her feminist quest to force Augusta National Golf Club, host of the Masters, to admit women as members. Ms. Burke’s protest at the Masters last month wound up like a golf ball plugged in a sand trap — it went no where. As it turned out, men and women were far more interested in what was happening on the course. History will remember the 2003 Masters for Mike Weir’s sudden-death victory — the first lefty to wear the Green Jacket and the first Canadian as well, not Ms. Burke’s protest.

Now we have a sex controversy that reaches inside the ropes. Yesterday, because of a sponsor’s invitation, Annika Sorenstam teed it up with the guys at the Bank of America Colonial tournament in Fort Worth, Texas.

Miss Sorenstam is the best female golfer today, and perhaps ever. At the age of 32, she already has tallied up 43 LPGA career victories, including four major tournaments. Just last year alone, she earned 13 victories around the world. One could argue that she is the Tiger Woods of the women’s tour.

However, the response to Miss Sorenstam playing with the men has been decidedly mixed. The favorable camp includes top golfers like Phil Mickelson and David Duvall, along with LPGA Commissioner Ty Votaw and various LPGA players. Both the PGA Tour and the LPGA love the attention being earned by Miss Sorenstam’s decision to play in the Colonial, as do the CBS and USA television networks, which have decided to add coverage.

Others have been supportive, like Tiger Woods, while also voicing concern that if Miss Sorenstam does poorly it could hurt the women’s tour.

Then there are the negative responses. Perhaps the most noteworthy reaction was Vijay Singh, who owns two major titles. The Associated Press quoted him as saying: “I hope she misses the cut. Why? Because she doesn’t belong out here.” Later, Vijay, who later dropped out of the tournament for reasons he said were not related to the controversy, said his comment was not meant as a personal attack. Golf great Kathy Whitworth wasn’t exactly cheerleading when she was quoted in the Detroit News: “I don’t see that it would really accomplish anything. Nothing against Annika — she’s a great player. But I don’t think she’ll be in contention.”

Is this good for golf or not? After all, doesn’t Miss Sorenstam’s effort fly in the face of golf’s rules and tradition? And as a conservative, I take rules and tradition very seriously.

Contrary to what some might think, though, PGA Tour rules do not exclude women from playing. Interestingly, tradition also may not be much of an issue either. Sure, the PGA Tour is the men’s venue and the LPGA for women. But a woman playing in a PGA Tour event is not without precedent. Babe Didrikson Zaharias played in the L.A. Open in 1938 and in 1945.

I think Miss Sorenstam’s undertaking actually highlights what’s best about golf.

Whether a top golfer or a weekend duffer, those of us who love playing the game do so, ultimately, to compete against ourselves. You tee it up in an effort to score better than you did in the previous round, or hopefully to beat your best finish ever.

Many people seem bewildered by Annika Sorenstam’s decision to risk falling flat by teeing it up with the guys. She offered a response to the Associated Press last week that every golfer should understand: “I’m doing this because I want to test myself. I’m coming to a stage that’s totally different than I’m used to: tougher course, tougher competitors, all the attention. … It’s just a test for me. I want to see what it’s all about, I want to see how good my game is.” That’s what golf is — a test. It taps into the very personal, individualistic pursuit for self-improvement.

Forget the complainers. Why not give the best female golfer an opportunity to tee it up with the guys? No special treatment. No hitting from the ladies’ tees. No handicaps. If Miss Sorenstam proves to have the game, good for her. If not, so be it. Either way, we’re all getting a glimpse of one of the things that makes golf great — the personal pursuit of excellence.

Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business Survival Committee.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide