SBD/February 17, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

LPGA Season Begins Amid Challenges Of Schedule, Appeal, TV Coverage

Honda LPGA Thailand is the first of two international tourneys to start season
The LPGA begins its season today with the Honda LPGA Thailand, and the tour “faces many challenges, from a limited U.S. schedule to spotty TV coverage,” but a “dominant player certainly would help rekindle interest,” according to Edgar Thompson of the PALM BEACH POST. Golfer Angela Stanford said, "We need one player ... it would help if it was an American ... to win six or eight tournaments a year, one [of] them being a major. Someone who is right there every week and dominates -- someone to pound it at them and just keep winning. That's what it's going to take." Michelle Wie is the “most obvious candidate,” and golfer Stacy Lewis said, "Everybody has just been waiting for her to break out." Lewis: "When she plays well, it moves the needle for sure." Thompson notes the LPGA this season “again will play only 25 tournaments -- 11 fewer than five years ago, for example" -- with only 13 in the U.S. Golfer Beth Daniel said, "There are a lot of good young players right now; there are some great personalities out on tour. But the schedule just puts a damper on the whole thing and doesn't allow you to see LPGA golf enough for an average viewer." Lewis: “We need to get better coverage on TV and get it live. Until we get there it's going to be hard for anybody to become something other than just a 'golf star'" (PALM BEACH POST, 2/17). GOLF DIGEST’s Ron Sirak noted with the season opening in Thailand and continuing next week with the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore, both events are “illustrative of the obstacles the LPGA needs to overcome to get back on track as a thriving tour.” That the tournament coverage will “be shown in the United States on tape delay is a problem for fans trying to connect with the tour" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 2/16).

FEMININE TOUCH: Golfer Blair O'Neal appears in this year’s SI Swimsuit Issue wearing a bikini, which was a topic of discussion on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” today. Golf Channel's Erik Kuselias asked retired golfer Annika Sorenstam how she feels “about these kinds of photos, and do they help or hurt the LPGA and their mission to provide publicity for their tour and get more people watching?" Sorenstam said, "I've only seen a few photos of Blair, but the ones I've seen are very good. I would be proud of them. She is very respectful. It's classy. I think sex sells. … It brings attention to the tour and a little femininity doesn't hurt the tour.” Sorenstam did note no one talks about male golfers using sexuality to sell themselves. She said, “Some of them dress very well but it's not really part of who they are. It's all about sports, it's all about winning majors. Unfortunately, on the women's tour and women's sports it's a lot more than performance. You have to look a certain way, you have to be very feminine, you have to have long hair and nice nails. But then you have to hit it 300 yards. Sometimes it's a little hard to live up to all those standards” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 2/17).
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