As Wie rises, she may take the LPGA with her

By Randall MellJune 24, 2014, 11:00 pm

Michelle Wie’s breakthrough Sunday at the U.S. Women’s Open is resonating far beyond the buzz expected.

Nancy Lopez could hear it Monday night when she arrived in New York for the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association National Awards Dinner, where she received the Winnie Palmer Award for devotion to the less fortunate.

“It seemed like everyone watched Michelle win,” Lopez said. “We were all talking about it.”

The buzz took off in entirely unanticipated directions with Wie’s own arrival in New York City on Tuesday for a whirlwind media tour. An amusing tweet showing her turning the Harton S. Semple trophy into a giant beer mug during her victory party was already viral upon her arrival, so was a video of her doing some gravity-defying twerking.

A TMZ camera crew scrambled alongside Wie on the streets of New York and asked about her it.

Dan Patrick couldn’t resist asking about it when she called in to do his national radio show.

“Michelle Wie, U.S. Women’s Open champ, amateur twerker, joining us on the program,” Patrick said.

Wie, 24, went with the flow, asking if Patrick and his “Danettes” would twerk for her.

“It was fun,” Wie said of her victory party. “I worked really hard for it. It was just really fun to see all my friends come together, and we had a really good time.”

After bouncing from the Today Show, to Fox & Friends, to CNN, to CNBC, to FoxSports1, Wie literally took the women’s game to stunning heights. She did local media interviews atop the Empire State Building. A lot of devoted fans of the women’s game are eagerly waiting to see if she will be taking the LPGA to new heights with her.

While Wie might not have taken her golf clubs to New York, she was still posting scores.

In the game of sports marketing, there’s this thing called Q Score, which measure awareness and appeal based on surveys. Wie’s Q Score is undergoing an overhaul now. Her national TV and radio shows tour is part of that.

“These are the things you need to do to get exposed to broader audiences,” said Henry Schafer, executive vice president of Marketing Evaluations, which measure Q Scores. “All of this is going to create a lot of chatter about her, create additional exposure, but I’m not sure twerking brings the kind she wants. That might make her more polarizing.”

Surprisingly, Wie’s Q Score was just 14 before she won the U.S. Women’s Open, Schafer said. Lexi Thompson carried a Q Score of 37 into the championship. While those surveyed were almost three times more aware of who Wie is compared to Thompson (45 percent to 16 percent), Thompson’s appeal was higher.

Now, with Wie’s victory, her story will be retold to a larger audience, and her Q Score is likely to reflect that when it is recalculated in a month or so. She isn’t a controversial teen phenom anymore, or a struggling pro failing to live up to HER potential. She’s the broken player who persevered to put herself back together.

Swing coach David Leadbetter calls this season Wie’s rebirth, her second career. Marketing analysts see the possibilities beyond her shot-making skills.

“In the broader market, there is a real void and need for a female global star in sports,” said Peter Stern, founder of The Strategic Agency, a New York-based sports and entertainment marketing firm. “She has star quality and a real opportunity to connect with the millennials, to be very attractive to luxury products, and I can see her playing in the fashion and beauty world.”

Wie already has endorsement deals with Nike, Kia, Omega, McDonald’s, Sime Darby and Zengyro. In a sense, she also has an informal one with the LPGA, whom she represents every time she tees it up.

“She can be a tremendous shot in the arm for women’s golf, similar to what Tiger Woods has been for the men,” Stern said. “A few more wins, and she could really move the needle.”

Former LPGA commissioner Charlie Mechem watched Wie help fuel a rising tide in women’s golf with much satisfaction this past weekend.

“I’m 84 now, and in my contact with people even my age, they’re talking about women’s golf more than they ever have,” Mechem said. “Michelle winning is a huge plus. There is clearly a big buzz, and I think it’s only going to increase. It isn’t just what happened last week. This has been happening for a year or two.”


Photos: Michelle Wie takes New York City by storm

Wie boosted NBC’s U.S. Women’s Open TV ratings Sunday to 1.7, a 92-percent increase over last year’s final-round. She looks poised to fulfill the promise she first showed as a teenager. She has two victories this year and was runner-up in the year’s first major, the Kraft Nabisco.

“I think we’re clearly seeing a changing of the guard in women’s golf,” Mechem said. “We still have great players like Juli Inkster and Karrie Webb, but there’s a new group of players with Michelle Wie, Stacy Lewis, Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, you could go on and on.”

With Wie winning the U.S. Women’s Open and Thompson the Kraft Nabisco, Americans have claimed the first two major championships of the year for the first time since 1999. With Lewis No. 1 in the world, Korda, Paula Creamer and Lizette Salas all winning this year, Americans are regaining a dominant foothold in the women’s game.

Could we be moving toward another golden era in American women’s golf?

“We were talking about that last night,” Lopez said, referring to the Metropolitan Golf Writers dinner. “I hope so. Michelle would be a great face for the LPGA, if she can keep it going. She is part of such a fantastic stable in the women’s game right now.”

Four-time major championship winner Meg Mallon grew up watching and then joining one of the golden ages in women’s golf. She was in high school in 1978 when Lopez won nine LPGA titles as a rookie.

“As a kid, I followed the Olympic sports and athletes. I didn’t really follow women’s golf, but she brought the sport to the front page on everyone’s doorstep,” Mallon said.

Pat Bradley, JoAnne Carner, Patty Sheehan, Betsy King, Amy Alcott, Hollis Stacy and Beth Daniel overlapped the career of Lopez in the ‘70s, ‘80s and early ‘90s.

“It was an amazing era of women’s golf, and I could definitely see that developing again with this group of young players in the game now,” Mallon said. “Nancy was the best thing that happened to the tour. She brought a lot of attention to all those great players. I could definitely see Michelle being that type of player, somebody who can bring attention to all these other players and the tour as a whole.”

Bradley, the Hall of Famer who won 31 LPGA titles, appreciated what Lopez did for the entire tour.

“People came out to watch Nancy, and some of them watched me,” Bradley said. “Nancy did that for my generation, and I can see Michelle doing that for this generation. She can move the needle for the LPGA like Tiger did for the PGA Tour. This young lady has very broad shoulders.”

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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.

Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 7:40 pm

Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.

Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.

It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.

Goodbye and good riddance.

The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.

“What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.


The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.

Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.

Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.

But at what cost?

The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.

The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.

We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.

In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.  

We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.

Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.

We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.

“What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.

Amen again.

We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.

Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.

There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.

This is good governance.

And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.

This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.

We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.

Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.

Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”