SBD/April 7, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

LPGA's Whan "Disappointed And Frustrated" By Gretzky's Golf Digest Cover

Media members have defended the Gretzky cover as a smart business decision
LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan on Friday said he is "disappointed and frustrated by the editorial direction (and timing) Golf Digest has chosen" with its provocative cover featuring Paulina Gretzky, according to John Nicholson of the AP. Whan in a statement said, "If a magazine called Golf Digest is interested in showcasing females in the game, yet consistently steers away from the true superstars who've made history over the last few years, something is clearly wrong. ... 'Growing the game' means a need for more role models and in these exciting times for women's golf, the LPGA is overflowing with them." Golf Digest Editor-In-Chief Jerry Tarde in a statement said, "Sports figures, celebrities and models have appeared on Golf Digest covers since the magazine's beginning" (AP, 4/5). QMI AGENCY's Tim McKay noted the "last three women to appear on Golf Digest’s cover have been Gretzky, model Kate Upton and Golf Channel personality Holly Sonders." None of them "LPGA players, all of them buxom." This in a time when "young stars are emerging and the game is the most global of the major tours." While "all of what Whan says is true, it’s also an indictment of him and the LPGA." What the players "should be outraged over is the fact that Whan and the LPGA has yet to find a way to effectively market them or their tour" (QMI AGENCY, 4/6).
 
NOT MAGAZINE'S JOB TO PROMOTE LPGA: ESPN’s Israel Gutierrez said he understands the LPGA's criticism of Gretzky appearing on the cover, but added, "This is Golf Digest, this is not LPGA Digest. It’s not their job to promote the LPGA." Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said, "It’s Golf Digest, it’s their magazine. They can put what they want on the cover. It has nothing directly related to do with the LPGA and the marketing of that sport” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 4/4). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser: "This is a magazine we’re talking about. It’s not the LPGA in-house magazine, it’s a for-profit magazine, Golf Digest. They’re in the business of selling magazines. They’re not there to boost the LPGA." He added the LPGA is a “product, and they have to sell the product by being excellent golfers, good public relations with people who go to watch the product” ("PTI," ESPN, 4/4). Golf Channel’s Sonders appeared on the cover of last year’s Golf Digest fitness issue and said it was "one of the highlights of my career to be chosen to be on the cover.” Sonders said, “The idea that the fitness issue was successful enough that they would want to make this an annual thing, I think it is fantastic. But with that said, the fact that this cover has proven to be so controversial in a negative way, drawing some negative comments on Twitter, from people across the media, from some players, it actually saddens me. In a time that millions of people are quitting the game of golf and we are trying to grow it, why would anybody try to tear down Golf Digest’s attempt to think outside the box, maybe attract some new eyes to the game? Their job is to sell magazines. That is the business that they are in, not to cover the LPGA tour. That is our job” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 4/5).

COVER DELIVERED ON INTENTIONS: SPORTS ON EARTH's Sarah Turcotte wrote, "Well played, Golf Digest. You got exactly what you wanted. Paulina Gretzky is on your cover and poof! We’re all talking about ya." The Gretzky issue will "almost certainly sell more on the newsstand and generate more buzz than any other issue." The magazine "made a smart business decision, and Gretzky wisely took advantage of a big opportunity afforded to her." It "certainly got us talking" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 4/4). FS1's Katie Nolan said, "We are talking about Golf Digest on television right now. When is the last time anyone has spoken about Golf Digest? It doesn’t happen" ("Crowd Goes Wild," FS1, 4/4). ESPN's Jemele Hill: "We're sort of giving Golf Digest what they aimed for, which is to create and generate publicity and people talking about the cover" ("Numbers Never Lie," ESPN2, 4/4).

RIVERBOAT WHAN: GOLFCHANNEL.com's Randall Mell noted Whan "still likes the potential upside" of the U.S. Women's Open following the men to Pinehurst. Whan has "heard the fears his players have" with the U.S. Women’s Open scheduled in June on the same course the U.S. Open will be played the week before, and he "hasn’t tried to muzzle them, even with his optimism this unprecedented arrangement could pay huge dividends for the women’s game." He said, “What I tell our players is: `Remember, the USGA is our largest title sponsor.' People don’t like to think of it that way, but without them, we lose the greatest (title sponsor).” While some players "worry they may be getting a 'hand-me-down' Open, with the men potentially leaving them a pock-marked course full of divots, Whan sees the possibility of new audiences tuning into see the women." He said of the men's event, "The USGA’s been really cool about what we can do. Putting our players in the Saturday and Sunday (TV) booth when they’re getting a gazillion rating is cool. I’m excited about that. From a pure business perspective, it has a huge upside, even if there is some of the negative stuff” (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 4/4).
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