The LPGA’s “Drive On” television spot isn’t just terrific. It’s an important message our nation needs to hear.
“This is for every girl who’s ever been left out or told she doesn’t belong. This is for every girl who’s been told she’s too loud, too quiet, too this or too that. This is for every girl who thinks her body isn’t good enough. …”
But widespread impact?
Swing coach Hank Haney’s inappropriate comments about the LPGA Tour’s Koreans and lightning blasting an oak tree make for the national news coming out of the U.S. Women’s Open that concludes Sunday at the Country Club of Charleston.
That’s disappointing for a major tournament and outreach that should come with a big event.
There are so many great stories on the LPGA Tour and over the grand piece of real estate wedged along Wappoo Creek and the Ashley River. But for golf future, global potential and for young girls, the LPGA Tour needs a boost from the men’s tour, including a few combined tournaments.
Ideally, a combined major like they have with all four grand slam events in the more united tennis front.
What’s good for women’s professional golf is eventually good for all golf, now and later.
Because a great post-Tiger Woods struggle for fans and recreational players is coming for both tours in a post-modern society full of short attention spans and distractions.
A combined U.S. Open plan
What you want if you’re in the golf business is more people playing: women, men, kids, families, co-workers.
The best way to achieve that is through interesting events.
For now, the only combined show with equal prize money involves the LPGA Tour and European Tour at something called the Vic Open in February. It’s in Australia.
The defunct JC Penny Classic (among other sponsor names) existed from 1960-1967 and from 1976-1999, teaming PGA and LPGA players.
“One of my big thrills,” said 76-year-old Sandra Palmer, who won 19 times on the LPGA Tour. “I played with Arnold Palmer. So that was fun.”
Charleston’s Beth Daniel won the event three times, with Tom Kite in 1981 and with Davis Love III in 1990 and 1995.
“Those kind of events, where the men and women are together the same week, would be really helpful to us because it would give the women a lot more exposure, playing alongside the men in something like that,” said former LPGA Tour star Meg Mallon, who won the JC Penny Classic with Steve Pate in 1998.
“Work on that, will you?” she asked me when I suggested more combined events.
How about a combined U.S. Open in golf?
Sort of like a combined U.S. Open, Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon in that other sport.
Alternate groupings. Men and women. But playing from different tees. You would have to cut the two fields in half but so what?
It would be great for golf.
So much fun.
People would watch that, including a lot of girls that will grow up and want to play more golf with their kids.
If a combined major is too unwieldy, how about a U.S. vs. the World event pairing top players?
“… This is for every girl who feels she doesn’t fit in. This is for every girl who’s been told that success and kindness are two different things. This is for every girl who’s been told to give up. …”
The Augusta debate
This week’s Sports Illustrated cover also has a great message for women and young girls: “Dominate Today; Inspire Tomorrow.”
That’s soccer, about the U.S. Women’s National Team. The LPGA message could use some PGA Tour assistance to get that kind of platform.
But there is little willingness to help out on the stodgy PGA Tour side.
And the LPGA Tour wasn’t too crazy about how the brilliantly crafted and wildly successful inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur the week before the Masters overshadowed its ANA Inspiration tournament.
“It was a great event for showcasing the women’s game,” Mallon said, “but it hurt the LPGA Tour.”
Not if the ANA Inspiration moves and the LPGA schedule adjusts.
The Augusta thing has already lifted the LPGA Tour with the spectacular launch of winner Jennifer Kupcho and runner-up Maria Fassi (among others) into not-too-distant-future stardom. Both are making their pro debuts at this week’s U.S. Women’s Open.
The LPGA Tour needs all the high-profile players it can get to get that message across.
“… This is us crushing it for you - so you can crush it for the next girl.”
Which benefits the entire golf world.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.