The panel of guests will debut on The Golf Channel Friday Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. The panel of golf's most influential personalities present a compelling look at the current state of the game and the decisive headlines that have golf poised for one of the brightest futures in the world of sports.
I dont see Marion Jones running the 100 meters against the world champion men's runner, said Ernie Els in a video clip shown to the panel. I dont see the (woman) shot putter going against the mens shot putter. I dont see the women jumping against the mens high jumper.
I feel like its going to take something away from their tour if their stars arent playing on their tour, said Hank Kuehne. Kuehnes sister, Kelli, is a regular on the LPGA Tour.
Suzy Whaley, who qualified for the Greater Hartford Open by winning a PGA of America sectional tournament, defended the women who have branched out to play in mens tournaments this year.
I think for me ' and for most women ' we are not looking to play on the PGA Tour, she said. Thats not Annikas (Sorenstam) intent ' I dont think. Having me play, having Annika play, having Michelle (Wie) play, put womens golf for the first time on the front page, on television. It brought an awareness that it desperately needed.
David Pillsbury, who is with Nike Golf, agreed wholeheartedly. It was fantastic (Sorenstam playing at the Bank of America Colonial), he said. It electrified the whole country. How could that have not been one of the greatest events this year in sports?
Jack Nicklaus saw a parallel with international players who tried in past years to play the PGA Tour. (It was said) theyre cherry-picking, theyre doing that, that and the other, said Nicklaus.
'Today, the sponsor gets a certain number of exemptions to help his tournament in any way he sees fit. And if its giving Suzy or Annika or whomever an exemption that helps their tournament and promotes the game of golf ' and they bring along their golf clubs and play - let them play!
Whenever I hear someone complain about it, I say, Hey! Go play better. If youre worried about someone beating you, go play better!
Panelist John Cook offered a somewhat differing thought. What Suzy did ' and what Annika did ' was great, said Cook. What Annika did ' shes the best at what she does and she promoted the game to an absolute, out-of-this-world place that it can go.
The problem is, do you give these people places to play? Tiger Woods earned his way on the PGA Tour If anybody wants to come out and try to qualify, I have no problem with that. The problem is, if it gets to a point where the gals are playing all the time and they are not really performing ' and I hate to say this because I have no problem with the gals playing if they are gonna perform and going to compete.
But at what point does it stop being a novelty act instead of someone being competitive?
Ruffin Beckwith of the PGA Tour said that, with 23 percent of Americas golfers now women, one must acknowledge that women represent a real future of the game.
But I am less enamored with a 13-year-old (Wie, now 14) being exploited and playing in some mens event than I am with Annika and Suzy, said Beckwith.
Greg Hopkins, president and CEO of Cleveland Golf, agreed. I think its wrong, said Hopkins.
I think its wrong for sponsors of the tournaments to participate in that. It was wrong. Its different for that young lady over there (referring to Whaley) and Annika, than it is for a 13-year-old girl. Let her mature. Let her learn the game and leave her alone.
Whaley, though, emphatically disagreed.
Its been nice to have a junior icon for my young women in my LPGA USA girls golf, said Whaley ' a teaching pro as well as a head pro in Connecticut. They think shes the coolest thing ever ' and golf is cool, because of Tiger, because of the Michelles.
Thirteen is VERY young. Ive met her, Ive met her family, theyre delightful people. I think they are in an extremely hard situation. . Shes unbelievably talented. If you watch this young girl hit a golf ball, shes a phenom!
Whaley agreed, though, that Wie should not play mens tour events at this age. I think she should enjoy high school, I think she should enjoy her friends, I think she should play very high level competitive golf.
Is that on the mens tour? Possibly no, not right now. But in the future, I could see her playing some mens events on the PGA Tour, she said.