SBD/June 23, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Yes Wie Can: Michelle Wie's Open Victory Could Raise Profile Of Women's Golf

Wie could elevate women's golf into mainstream relevancy
Michelle Wie won the U.S. Women's Open yesterday at Pinehurst No. 2, a victory that could help take the LPGA "to new heights," according to Steve DiMeglio of USA TODAY. In a "dream season where 10 players have combined for all 15 wins -- with each of the players ranked in the top 16 in the world -- the tour has seen increased TV ratings, attendance and attention." Now it "may see more of all three." Golfer Lexi Thompson said of Wie's win, "It will mean a lot of things for women's golf. I think it will grow women's golf a lot." Golfer Stacy Lewis, who finished second to Wie, added, "That scene on 18, being on network TV, as many people as we had around there at Pinehurst No. 2 and Michelle Wie winning the golf tournament, I don't think you can script it any better. I think it's great for the game of golf. I think it's even better for women's golf" (USA TODAY, 6/23). Ron Green Jr. in a special to the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER wrote this is a "great time for women's professional golf," as it is "riding a wave that still seems to be building" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 6/21). NBC's Mark Rolfing said the LPGA was in "such good shape" regardless of whether Wie had won the Open or not. Rolfing: "But to have her as the Women's Open champion -- boy, the sky's the limit for them now" ("Golf Central," Golf Channel, 6/22). In Winston Salem, Scott Hamilton writes it is clear that Wie is "the best hope to elevate women's golf into mainstream relevancy." The momentum from her win yesterday will "carry the sport only as far as Wie will allow it." But "judging from Wie’s demonstrative body language and the way she clutched the victor’s Harton S. Semple Trophy afterward, winning suits her." This could be "only the beginning" (WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL, 6/23).

WIE BRINGS STAR POWER
: ESPNW's Mechelle Voepel wrote golf is "about individual star power, and the LPGA has had only a few over the years who have had especially high wattage combined with consistent results on the course." Since Annika Sorenstam retired in '08, "no one has 'moved the needle' consistently when it comes to women's golf." But Wie is "one of those athletes who has the potential to transcend her sport -- or at least bring it publicity that not too many others can" (ESPNW.com, 6/22). GLOBAL GOLF POST's Steve Eubanks writes women's golf "doesn't need" Wie, but she "sure does help." The "ratings, interest and fortunes of the female professional game don't hinge on Wie's position on the leaderboard," but it is "no coincidence that during a spring in which she logged her first win on U.S. soil and had seven top-10 finishes before arriving in Pinehurst ... ratings for the LPGA shot up" between 16-25% over the same period last year. The number of LPGA Facebook followers "also have increased" 163%, while Twitter numbers are up 60% and Instagram is up 221% "in the past 12 months." Wie "definitely moves the needle" (GLOBAL GOLF POST, 6/23). Eubanks adds Wie is "both the Tiger Woods and the Phil Mickelson of the women's game -- the one player who generates interest from the drive-by golf fan while at the same time giving diehard followers no end of heartburn" (GLOBAL GOLF POST, 6/23). Golf Channel's Chris DiMarco said of Wie, "It's great for the LPGA to have that marketable player that transcends the game, and she's doing it." The LPGA needs a "dominant player," which makes the tour "exciting because you either like that person or you don’t like that person, like Tiger Woods on our tour" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 6/23).

FACE OF THE SPORT?
GOLF.com's weekly roundtable discussed whether Wie's win made her the face of women's golf, with Golf magazine's Jessica Marksbury saying, "No question the answer is yes. Wie has always been the face of women's golf." Golf.com's Eamon Lynch added, "Every sports update I heard on my car radio today covered Wie's quest for a major, which is hardly standard practice for a Women's Open. She never really stopped being the face of women's golf, even as she struggled throughout her career. Among the casual fans, she remained the most famous female golfer in the world. Now her game has the stature of her reputation and her brand." SI's Gary Van Sickle: "She's definitely the face of American women's golf until she piles up a few more wins, but she's a dream for LPGA marketing." Golf magazine's Joe Passov added, "The only woman that truly moves the needle is Wie, and her win is great for women's golf -- and great for golf, period. ... Women's golf has a real possibility to regain the momentum it had a couple of years ago. ... In some ways, it's more compelling than the current different-winner-each-week PGA Tour." SI's Jeff Ritter: "Is the LPGA having a great season or what?" (GOLF.com, 6/22). Meanwhile, GOLFWEEK's Beth Ann Nichols wrote playing PGA Tour events as a teenager, "for better or for worse, is what made Wie a household name and it's what makes Sunday's victory at Pinehurst so monumental for the LPGA" (GOLFWEEK.com, 6/22). 

WORDS OF WISDOM: In N.Y., Karen Crouse noted golfer Juli Inkster yesterday at 53 competed in her final U.S. Women's Open after serving as the "model for a generation of working mothers on the LPGA." Inkster "won four of her seven major titles ... after giving birth to the second of her two daughters." Inkster now "envisions the top players following the path of Mexico’s Lorena Ochoa, who won two majors and reached No. 1 before retiring at 28 to become a full-time mother." Inkster said, "Most of these girls are starting off really young playing, and by the time they get out here, they’ve played 10 years of competitive golf, and now you’re asking them to play another 10 years or whatever. It’s just a lot of golf, a lot of wear and tear on your body.” She added, “I really don’t see a lot of the girls playing into their 30s" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/22).
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