Monday, July 13, 2009

No surprises post-US Open

It was somewhat surprising how few under par rounds there were at this year's US Open; and that Christie Kerr feel apart on Sunday; and the way Eun He Ji calmed her nerves and pulled off that amazing birdie putt at 18 to win her first major.
Not surprising was Paula Creamer bright pink Sunday outfit (is this going to be a permanent thing??) and the "resignation" of LPGA commish Carolyn Bivens. Bivens's ouster has been in the works and when a group of prominent players signed a letter after the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic (the last one ever because of funding/sponsor issues) a few weeks ago asking for her resignation, her fate was pretty much sealed. The LPGA will have to pony up $1 million to buy out her contract, however, which runs through 2010. In the meanwhile, the LPGA is seeking a temporary commissioner while it searches for a suitable "permanent" (because, really, what job in sport has any kind of permanence these days?) replacement.
So here's the thing. I am not a huge fan of Bivens but basically for only one reason: her inane language policy (everyone's gotta speak English--soon) that got implemented and then revoked when it came under heavy criticism from outside the golf world.
But the criticism from players and others (inside and out) is that she is taking a hard line with sponsors who want to play fewer of the costs for putting on a tournament. And so they back out.
I don't envy Bivens her job right now and thus am not surprised that she was pretty willing to get bought out of her contract.
Yes, the economy sucks. But the PGA doesn't seem to be having too many troubles; or the NBA or even the MLB for that matter. At least not troubles that have people saying "What will be the future of the ___?" Bivens is only asking sponsors to support the LPGA in the way they support other sports. And sponsors have balked at that notion.
Support women's sports in the same way? Quel horreur! No, no, Carolyn Bivens and all you lady golfers; we are going to give you what we want to, and you are going to be grateful for it. And you are going to send your prettiest golfers out to play rounds with all our male execs prior to the tournaments. And they will make nice, and you will make nice--and then you will have to find a way to foot the bill for everything else.
Suzann Petterson said “Maybe we’ve been playing too tough and kind of cutting too many out instead of dropping down on the price and making everybody happy.”
Except you're not making everybody happy. Someone has to cover those costs when sponsors commit to less. What gets cut? Prize money? Female golfers already make so much less than their male counterparts. This is not a league, like the WPS for example, that is new and playing it conservatively and asking everyone to ride out the tough years. The LPGA has been around forever. That it is experiencing these kinds of problems reflects not just the economy or the leadership, but also our society.


Diane said...

Well said. I don't really follow women's golf that much for the game, but I do pay attention to it from a cultural standpoint. (I confess that doing so has also pulled me in to pay more attention to the game, too :) )

The golf culture is similar to the tennis culture in that it promotes equality and all that goes with it--until someone needs to take a stand. It is also similar in that it is run by people who are, to some degree, clueless about women's issues.

Until another Billie Jean King (the original one--not the one the Pod People took over) comes along in both tennis and golf, I don't see anything changing.

jfb said...

I am interested in seeing who gets the job next. I would like to see a big-name ambassador get the job -- Nancy Lopez. I think sponsors would respect her and possibly want to be associated with her and the LPGA. I think the LPGA needs someone like that to improve its prominence.

Sex appeal and sponsors wanting that is a huge problem in women's sport. But I don't remember Bivens railing against this either. She's in a tough spot. You don't want to upset the sponsors, as ken notes, but I have to believe there are some sponsors out there who want to be associated with the league's youth movement and not just its sex appeal. I think Lopez is the right person for the job. I don't think she ever played the sex card when she was on the tour.