June 27, 2012
Equality still has a long way to go in golf
By TIM McKAY, QMI Agency
An important milestone was passed Saturday at the LPGA Manulife Financial Classic in Waterloo.
Yes, it was the inaugural tournament for the LPGA there, but more importantly, the 40th anniversary of the United States' adoption of Title IX passed quietly, with little fanfare.
Many of the American players wore stickers on their hats, though most of them were too young to realize the impact the education amendment from 1972 made to their careers.
Title IX states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance..."
Basically, it paved the way for women to receive equal funding and treatment in college athletics and, even though it is an American decree, plenty of Canadian women have benefitted from it as well in the form of scholarships to U.S. institutions, where they were allowed to hone their skills.
The LPGA predates the passage of Title IX by 22 years, but with college as a natural feeder system, it has bolstered today's women's game.
According to the LPGA, there are more than 100 American players on tour who played college golf. That doesn't include people from other countries who went to U.S. schools.
"I couldn't imagine going to high school and then not playing college golf so Title IX has obviously changed my world," Angela Stanford told the LPGA. "It would have been very difficult to just go to school."
It's clear that Title IX has made sure women are given their fair shake at the collegiate level, but what was clear last week in Waterloo was that it hasn't necessarily translated to an equal footing for the professional game.
The community of Kitchener-Waterloo embraced the event -- 1,500 volunteer spots were filled in 30 hours, and more than 66,000 people came through the gates during the week -- but Canada's second LPGA tournament had a regional feel to it.
It was shocking how few national media outlets covered the tournament in any meaningful way. And then there were those doing stories about what the girls were wearing, somewhat insulting considering some weren't working for fashion magazines or for their publication's style section.
So why the apparent malaise toward the women's game?
It's an uncomfortable question for a game whose stars tend to be the cute ones who speak English and engage the fans (Michelle Wie hadn't made a cut before Waterloo, yet she was one of a few players with a police escort).
It wasn't totally surprising when speaking with someone last week, they said, bluntly: "You know no one cares about this, right?"
And that's what it comes down to.
You can legislate fair treatment with government money, but you can't make anyone watch the women's game if they deem it inferior, or for whatever other reason.
After covering PGA Tour and European Tour events, women's golf is no less exciting -- take Sunday's four-hole playoff finish that required three straight birdies by winner Brittany Lang, for example -- but equality for the LPGA is still a long way off.
LUKE, WE ARE YOUR SPONSOR
The recent PGA Tour trend of ensuring events attract good fields through sponsorship money took a kick in the teeth this week when Luke Donald announced he would not be coming to the Canadian Open next month.
RBC, which is an "official banking and financial services partner" with the world's No. 1 player, has to be smarting after the Englishman said he wouldn't play in Canada because of scheduling difficulties.
Donald has decided to defend his Scottish Open title the week before the British Open and coming to Hamilton Golf and Country Club would mean he would be playing five weeks in a row. A scheduling conflict indeed, but one that could have been foreseen when planning his calendar.
It may be another reason for the PGA Tour to re-examine its rules surrounding player sponsorships and appearance fees.
ON THE TEE
Congressional Country Club, Blue Course (7,569 yards, par 71), Bethesda, Md.
* Tiger Woods hosts the event but can he tear apart the course like Rory McIlroy did a year ago at the U.S. Open in his absence?
Royal Portrush Golf Club, Dunluce Links (7,143 yards, par 72), Portrush, Northern Ireland
* Local heroes Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell lead the field, which also includes American Keegan Bradley.
Walmart NW Arkansas Championship
Pinnacle Country Club (6,274 yards, par 71), Rogers, Ark.
* The final tune-up before next week's U.S. Women's Open. No. 1 Yani Tseng back in action after skipping the stop in Waterloo, Ont., last week, where Brittany Lang picked up her first career win.