2005: Perspective - Pick LPGA, Michelle

The continuing success of 18-year-old Paula Creamer in securing an eight-shot victory in Europe’s Evian Masters – the rookie’s second victory – is further evidence that the future of LPGA competition appears in good hands.

Last month, 17-year old amateur Morgan Pressel tied for runner-up at the U.S. Women’s Open. Pressel is the leading name among a number of under-18 amateurs who are petitioning the LPGA to gain membership. The LPGA appears to be in a very healthy position as commissioner Ty Votaw prepares to hand the leadership post to his successor, Carolyn Bivens.

Where, I wonder in all of this, stands Michelle Wie? From time to time we hear via her father, B.J., that his daughter’s destiny might take her to the PGA Tour. Of all of the many comments I have heard regarding this scenario, the most salient were attributed to Nancy Lopez.

“Why? It’s a little insulting,” Lopez said, according to the London Sunday Mail. “I feel she should beat Annika Sorenstam before she even tries to play against the men.”

Here, here, I say. Assuming Wie beats the super Swede, why would she not go on and try to eclipse the LPGA’s all-time records? Surely that should be the ambition for all future girl champions.

The history of golf is of men playing against men and women playing against women. That has stood the test of time. Where is there good reason to change history? Are we talking civil liberty in regard to restraint of trade? I don’t think so. Paula Creamer earned $375,000 at the Evian, and has earned more than $1 million before her 19th birthday. That doesn’t strike me as being shabby enough to start bothering the law courts because the men are playing for more!

The U.S. Women’s Open dates to 1946 and its roll call of great champions includes Babe Zaharias (three victories) and Mickey Wright (four victories). As we write, Sorenstam is attempting to win her 10th major at the Weetabix Women’s British Open, which dates to 1976, matching her equally dominant male counterpart, Tiger Woods. Lopez is correct: That is where all aspiring girls – including Wie – should be focusing their efforts.

It’s not for me to take issue with, among others, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson, who have stated that the extent of Wie’s talent is such that she could quite easily compete against men. I’m happy to take their word.

My point is different. It is that the structure of golf is not best served by mixing up the issues of men vs. women. Don’t get me wrong, it would not bother me one bit if Wie drives the ball longer than the best on all men’s tours, hits more greens in regulation and holes more putts on golf courses that are as long and difficult as those played by the men.

It might surprise me, but it would not disappoint me. If that should happen, I for one would be happy for the women to claim they had the world’s best!

In the meantime, I hope Bivens decides to help B.J. Wie in choosing the future direction for his richly talented daughter.

“Choose one Tour, not both, and stick to it,” Bivens should say. That’s why both Tours have conflicting event regulations, isn’t it?

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