Prominent PGA of America member Suzy Whaley stepped up as a strong voice for women in the game Friday telling Golf Channel viewers how troubled she was by the controversy Ted Bishop created making sexist remarks as president of the association.
Bishop was removed from his position as PGA president by a vote of the association’s board after he called European Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter a little girl in separate posts on Twitter and Facebook. Bishop’s term as president was scheduled to expire next month. Bishop’s comments about Poulter were a reaction to Poulter’s criticism of Nick Faldo and Tom Watson as Ryder Cup captains in Poulter’s new book, “No Limits,” released this week.
“Obviously, I was extremely disturbed by it,” Whaley said in a live interview on Golf Central. “They were extremely insulting and sexist.”
Whaley, a former member of the PGA board of directors, is running to become the next secretary of the PGA of America, which could put her on track to become the association’s first female president. Whaley made national news in the summer of 2003 when she became the first woman to qualify for a PGA Tour event since Babe Zaharias 58 years earlier. Whaley qualified to play in the Hartford Open as winner of the Connecticut PGA Championship.
“For me to hear comments that are derogatory about young girls, or insulting, just because you are a girl, is offensive,” Whaley said. “Our board of directors took swift action. The PGA of America finds it quite critical to be inclusive and we will continue to do so moving forward.”
Bishop created the furor by calling Poulter a “Lil Girl” on Twitter. In a separate post on Facebook, Bishop wrote that Poulter “sounds like a little school girl squealing during recess.”
Whaley said those words are at odds with the lessons she learned from PGA members while growing up.
“I was in 100 percent support of the board of directors,” Whaley said. “Our mission is to grow the game of golf, to be inclusive. I am extremely proud of the PGA membership and what I do on a daily basis to include young women and young men from all backgrounds into the game. There are 27,000 of us out there each and every day teaching young men and women, that are changing their lives through the game of golf. I’m so proud of that.
“We need to really empower young women and young girls . . . I was mentored by male PGA professionals, who encouraged me and taught me the game, who taught me life lessons and really wanted me to understand I could do anything, anything in the game of golf, or anything I chose to do in a professional in my life. That came from a male PGA professional.”
Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez was also troubled by Bishop’s comments toward Poulter.
“I was disappointed to hear he said that,” Lopez told GolfChannel.com. “I’ve always believed when you have an issue with someone, you should pick up the phone and call them and deal with them directly, in private.
“As far as the comment about little girls, I don’t think you ought to make any comments like that in reference to little girls. Little girls are sweet. Why even say that?”
There has been no public comment on that matter by the LPGA, and many the women’s game's most important voices have so far been noticeably silent on the topic. Annika Sorenstam had this to say Friday night: "This is an unfortunate episode, but the game of golf must continue its march toward openness and inclusiveness for all."