Women on the PGA Trend or Novelty

By Associated PressMay 20, 2003, 4:00 pm
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- Tim Herron was on the practice green at Colonial when Frank Lickliter walked by and asked a question that no longer seemed so absurd.
 
'Hey, Tim, is your sister playing this week?' Lickliter said.
 
Alissa Herron won the 1999 U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur and is a three-time state amateur champion from Minnesota.
 
She just doesn't have a starting time at Colonial.
 
At least not yet.
 
When the PGA Tour season started, Suzy Whaley was an exception, not the norm.
 
By the time fall arrives, three women will have played against the men -- Annika Sorenstam this week at the Colonial, Whaley in July at the Greater Hartford Open and Michelle Wie in September on the Nationwide Tour.
 
Whaley, a Connecticut club pro, qualified by winning a PGA sectional tournament.
 
When she told her oldest daughter she was going to play on the PGA Tour, 8-year-old Jennifer Whaley replied, 'It's not the men's tournament anymore, because Mommy's playing there.'
 
Colonial still seems like a men's tournament, especially walking through the smoke stench of the grill room, with framed black-and-white photos of Ben Hogan hanging on the walls. Outside the locker room is a sign that reads, 'PGA Tour Players Only.'
 
'That excludes her,' Lee Janzen said of Sorenstam. 'Unless someone puts a big 'L' in front of it. And then we'd be out.'
 
Sorenstam has the ladies' locker room to herself.
 
Strange times, indeed.
 
In late February, two weeks after Sorenstam made good on her promise to 'say yes in a heartbeat' if offered a sponsor's exemption, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was asked if he was concerned that women playing against the men would become a habit.
 
'On my part? No,' Finchem said. 'Her stated objective is to see how she does on our golf course against our players. I think the novelty will probably wear off.'
 
Try getting some of his players to believe that.
 
Before the Sorenstam circus could crank into high gear, the Boise Open on the Nationwide Tour last week offered a sponsor's exemption to Wie, a 13-year-old from Hawaii who is about to enter the ninth grade.
 
'I was thinking that I'm glad this will be a one-time event,' Janzen said. 'Then the next day, I look in the paper and ...
 
'You wonder what will happen. You wonder whether someone will step up and say, 'Enough is enough.''
 
Nothing in the PGA Tour bylaws prohibits women from competing, nor should it. The PGA Tour is not for the men, but for the best players in the world -- which happen to be men because of physical differences, primarily how much more power they can generate.
 
There is nothing wrong with Sorenstam playing in the Colonial on a sponsor's exemption.
 
'Some people think she should have earned her way in by qualifying,' Kenny Perry said. 'I think she would have gotten more respect from the guys. It didn't make any difference to me. They give away 12 spots, and that's up to the tournament.'
 
Sorenstam's appearance doesn't compromise the integrity of the competition.
 
Rod Curl gets to play as a past champion, even though he won Colonial in 1974, the year before Tiger Woods was born. Curl shot 83 in the first round last year and withdrew.
 
If Hootie Johnson ran Colonial, he would have sent Curl a letter.
 
Sorenstam doesn't deserve a free pass to the PGA Tour because of two great seasons. Still, the 32-year-old Swede is the only woman who has dreamed this big, and the only woman who is bold enough to try. For that, she deserves enormous respect.
 
'She has a big heart, I'll give her that,' said Nick Price, the defending champion at Colonial who said her appearance 'reeks of publicity.'
 
'I don't think I would be able to do what she's going to do. I really don't.'
 
No one begrudged Whaley for deciding to play Hartford because she played her way into the tournament. The only fault lies with the PGA of America for not having the foresight to make everyone play from the same tees when only one spot on the PGA Tour was offered.
 
The real danger is Wie.
 
Already approaching 6 feet, she swings like a man and hits the ball a mile. Still, her biggest achievement was playing in the final group this year at the Nabisco Championship. Aree Wongluekiet did the same thing three years ago when she was 13.
 
Wie doesn't have the game or the experience of Sorenstam. And while these guys are good on the PGA Tour, they aren't slouches on the Nationwide Tour, a circuit that has produced the likes of Ernie Els, David Duval and David Toms.
 
If Sorenstam makes the cut, it might be a crack in the door for women to crash the PGA Tour more often, especially if someone better than Sorenstam comes along.
 
If all three women post high scores, the novelty indeed might wear off.
 
PGA Tour events in dire need of publicity should be careful. Playing the gender card for the sake of selling a few tickets might come at the expense of players who no longer want to take part in a side show.
 

Related Links:
  • ''Everything Annika'' Feature Page
  • Annika and the Colonial Timeline
  • Full Coverage of the Bank of America Colonial
     

     
    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.