Golf Digest’s decision to place Paulina Gretzky on the magazine’s May cover is apparently important enough for LPGA Commissioner to weigh in. If it wasn’t a controversy before, it sure is now.
Earlier in the week at the LPGA’s first major championship, Kraft Nabisco, players were asked for their thoughts on Golf Digest’s decision. Players like Stacy Lewis and Juli Inkster were critical of the decision made by Golf Digest, questioning why the quality of the golf being played by members of the LPGA Tour couldn’t get the respect it deserves.
On Friday evening, LPGA Commissioner, Michael Whan felt compelled to issue a statement circulated to the media.
“Obviously we’re disappointed and frustrated by the editorial direction (and timing) Golf Digest has chosen with the announcement of its most recent magazine cover.
If a magazine called Golf Digest is interested in showcasing females in the game, yet consistently steers away from the true superstars who’ve made history over the last few years, something is clearly wrong.
Inbee Park wins 3-straight major championships in 2013. Stacy Lewis, in 2012, becomes the first American to win Rolex Player of the Year since 1994. Lexi Thompson and Lydia Ko set historical benchmarks while blossoming as the Tour’s youngest ever champions. And evidently, not one has been “cover worthy” for Golf Digest. “Growing the game” means a need for more role models and in these exciting times for women’s golf, the LPGA is overflowing with them.
At this point, I’m done talking about it and I hope the attention of the media and fans will shift in the proper direction.
The true stars representing women’s golf have a grand stage this weekend at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. I’m confident that the year’s first major championship will result in another compelling champion and the traditional Sunday leap into Poppie’s Pond will grab the media spotlight it so deserves.”
Why Whan felt it was necessary to bring even more attention to the Golf Digest May cover leaves one wondering just how insecure the ladies on the LPGA tour really are. Was he making this statement in a public demonstration for his members or did he hope sharing his position would put the issue to bed? The more the conversation gets traction the more the players on the LPGA Tour will be asked to comment, which undoubtedly distracts the attention away from the golf being played at the season’s first major championship.
Whan would have been better served to deal with this behind the scenes, directly with Golf Digest Editor in Chief, Jerry Tarde. You have to believe he’s had a conversation with Jerry about the feelings of his players, but if that’s the case why the need to issue this statement?
If Whan and the members of the LPGA Tour are truly upset about the decisions being made by Golf Digest, then withhold credentials from the publication and limit their access to the LPGA Tour. Unfortunately for Whan and the LPGA Tour, this wouldn’t likely impact Golf Digest and it’s ability to sell magazines at all.
That being said, Whan’s point about their being worthy role models on the LPGA Tour for Golf Digest, or any other golf media outlet for that matter, to showcase shouldn’t be disregarded. If Golf Digest is sincere in their desire to play a positive role in growing the game of golf, a big part of that is telling the story of female players like Lexi Thompson, Lydia Ko, Stacy Lewis and others.
It’s also important to differentiate these grow the game initiatives. Over the past 15 years, golf as an entertainment platform has grown considerably. Players are playing for more money as a result of golf fans interest in consuming the sport as entertainment. Clearly Tiger Woods had the biggest impact in taking golf to the next level, delivering television executives to the negotiating table in an effort to cash in on this global superstar. But while golf has grown as a method of entertainment, we haven’t experienced the same explosion as it relates to player participation.
Choosing Paulina Gretzky for the May Cover will likely bring new eyeballs to the game and specifically to the publication. Will these new eyes stick around beyond this issue, most likely not. There are beautiful women everywhere and they will migrate to the next Cigar Aficianado cover that looks to one up Golf Digest and Paulina.
However if there are young women out there who see the publication for the first time as a result of Paulina’s involvement, one has to wonder what message they are receiving. Is this what all women in golf look like? Clearly that’s not the case.