Women's golf needs USA vs Asia team competition


USA vs. Asia.

In women’s golf, there wouldn’t be a more compelling competition.

While there are no plans in the making to pit the Americans against the Far East in a biennial team competition similar to the Solheim Cup, it presents itself as a natural rivalry, as an event that holds the potential to complement the Solheim Cup as a platform to promote the women’s game with unique nationalistic appeal.

With the LPGA in the middle of another successful Asian fall swing, it presents itself as a possibility worth pondering.

The Asians are the most dominant force in women’s golf, and with the Lexus Cup’s demise, they aren’t part of any international team competition that showcases their talents as a region on any stage beyond the normal LPGA schedule.

That’s a shame.

Yes, that will be changing soon enough, with the LPGA getting ready to unveil its first Olympic-style competition as part of its future scheduling, a competition that will feature as many as eight international teams, but that’s a markedly different idea than pitting two international forces against each other.

While some folks might disagree, the feeling here is that there’s a lot of room for more international team competition in women’s golf.

If I’m an Asian corporation with interest in women’s golf, I’m talking to the Solheim family about how they so effectively built the USA vs. Europe competition. I might even be exploring the possibility of a partnership, but I’m definitely approaching the LPGA in exploring a way to bring the Americans and Asians together to play.

There are obstacles for the LPGA, but USA vs. Asia offers another great opportunity to maximize the enormous popularity of women’s golf overseas.

A segment of American women’s golf fans may believe Asian domination has hurt the LPGA, but the facts scream differently.

If not for the explosion of Asian interest in the game, the LPGA might be on its deathbed.

Seven of the 27 title sponsors of LPGA events are Asian companies with six events staged in the Far East. Notably, the LPGA’s largest single revenue stream is from Korean TV agreements. The second largest is from Japanese TV agreements.

Yes, there’s no doubt a successful American contingent is important to the LPGA’s success, but Asian and American success don’t have to be mutually exclusive. The Americans just need to step it up a notch, and a USA vs. Asia competition helps both causes in focusing so much attention on the personalities of players within the competition.

Of course, as the game is playing out today, the Americans would be heavy underdogs.

There’s probably a snickering element of even American golf fans who think the USA would get waxed in any such competition with Asia, and statistical comparisons reveal why, but feisty American women players would relish proving otherwise.

Here’s a quick look at how American and Asian players compare:

• If you took the top 12 Americans in the world rankings today, the USA team would feature No. 2 Stacy Lewis, No. 11 Paula Creamer, No. 14 Cristie Kerr, No. 20 Angela Stanford, No. 21 Brittany Lincicome, No. 23 Lexi Thompson, No. 27 Brittany Lang, No. 34 Morgan Pressel, No. 52 Michelle Wie, No. 63 Jessica Korda, No. 71 Katie Futcher and No. 75 Vicky Hurst.

• The Asian team would feature No. 1 Yani Tseng (Taiwan), No. 3 Na Yeon Choi (South Korea), No. 4 Shanshan Feng (China), No. 5 Inbee Park (South Korea), No. 6 Jiyai Shin (South Korea), No. 8 Ai Miyazato (Japan), No. 9 Mika Miyazato (Japan), No. 10 So Yeon Ryu (South Korea), No. 12 Sun Ju Ahn (South Korea), No. 13 Amy Yang (South Korea), No. 18 I.K. Kim (South Korea) and No. 19 Chi Arimura (Japan).

• The average ranking of the American team: 34.4.

• The average ranking of the Asian team: 9.0.

The competition might be lopsided on paper, but there’s enough American talent to intrigue in the unpredictable match-play format.

Again, there are obstacles, to be sure.

With the LPGA’s new Olympic event, would two international events in the same year work together?

How would the Solheim family react to another team event in opposite years? Would USA vs. Asia pose a threat to the Solheim Cup? The family deserves consideration after all it’s done for the women’s game.

How would the different golf ruling bodies in Asia come to terms? While the Ladies European Tour is the sole governing body for Europe in the Solheim Cup, Asia has different ruling bodies in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and China. There would be challenges, but they would be worth pursuing.

There’s also a reasonable concern that the competition might divide American and Asian golf fans in unhealthy ways as rivalries can do, but a genuine emphasis on sportsmanship and higher ideals will make that work as it does so many international competitions.

USA vs. Asia?

Is it a missed opportunity in women’s golf?

With the Asian swing fully engaged, it’s a question worth pondering.