Calling on all females

IAN HUTCHINSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

In the weeks leading up to last month's RBC Canadian Open, the men's national championship was dissected and its pieces examined from golf course to field to future sites.

In stark contrast, there's little being said about this week's CN Canadian Women's Open at Winnipeg's St. Charles Country Club, where it's being played with a field that includes 48 of the top 50 golfers on the LPGA Tour money list.

If Tiger Woods and all that firepower were in the men's Open, fans would be falling over one another for tickets and it would be a media fishbowl.

But in women's golf, even majors are mere mentions when compared to the Masters or British Open.

The knee-jerk reaction is that the media is male dominated and focused on men's sports. While that is generally true, things would change if a mass audience passionately demanded coverage.

It's tempting to engage in male-bashing, but save that for later.

The truth is that women will decide whether the LPGA Tour moves into a predominant place among sporting organizations, or continues to bump along in the fringe category.

The folks who cry foul when women's sports are ignored should first admit that women need to take ownership of whatever games they play or watch if they are to be major league.

That's not to say women don't have a passion for the tour, but if there were enough of a following, we wouldn't be having this discussion. The same argument could be made about certain men's sports, including the CFL, a league that dodged bullets for decades due to dwindling fan interest.

Women are recognized as major decision-makers when it comes to household income, but companies aren't flocking to sponsor tour events.

The number of tournaments has dwindled into the mid-20s and this month alone, there are only two -- hardly enough to get a buzz going.

Mass interest by women would also lead to the elusive television deal the LPGA Tour drastically needs if it is to stay in people's faces.

Lack of television also hurt the CFL, only in that case, it was by design. Many consider the decision to black out games in the '70s the start of the CFL's problems because it lost a generation of fans.

How many teenagers and 20-somethings today are familiar with the LPGA and what does that say for its future?

The financial clout of women can only be demonstrated through large numbers to sponsors and the media.

But the dilemma that the LPGA faces is how can you build greater numbers if women -- and men for that matter -- don't see your product regularly?

Much has been made of the accomplishments of women over the years, but consider that the LPGA Tour is celebrating its 60th anniversary with an admirable history that started in humble fashion with player caravans driving between events for safety reasons.

The tour has managed to get into the sporting psyche over its long history, hitting peaks in the 1970s and '90s, but things have diminished to the point where rookies Sam Richdale of Kelowna, B.C., and Lisa Meldrum of Montreal can barely get enough tournaments to get untracked.

It comes at a time when Stephanie Sherlock of Barrie and Sue Kim of Langley, B.C., have recently turned pro and there's another dandy on deck with Jennifer Kirby of Paris, Ont., refining her talents in college.

As it is in business, professional sports is a competitive world. It's highly doubtful that the LPGA Tour will ever have the purses or prestige of the PGA Tour, but it has given several indications over the years that it can be a high profile, viable organization.

In order to achieve that lofty goal, it must provide a significant return on investment for its sponsors by staying in front of the attractive demographic that women provide for companies.

There are no free passes and only women will decide whether the LPGA Tour thrives or survives.

hutchgolf@netzero.com


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