Women in golf are not only denied the recognition they deserve, but they also are disregarded with alarming frequency.
Right now, the most prominent example of such mistreatment is the Solheim Cup. After the attacks of Sept. 11, many anxious golfers were huffing and puffing about whether the Ryder Cup should be played. After Ryder Cup officials finally made the correct decision to postpone the matches, they moved without hesitation into the Solheim Cup’s rotation.
In the process, not one of them bothered to contact the Solheim family. At least Tim Finchem, commissioner of the PGA Tour, took the time to call LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw.
Jim Awtrey, executive director of the PGA of America, was conspicuously silent. I suppose because his organization makes tens of millions of dollars from the Ryder Cup, he was busy protecting his franchise. If the PGA of America possessed an understanding of how much the Solheim family had labored and sacrificed to nurture the Solheim Cup, such compassion was never evident.
In fact, the PGA of America initially wanted to stage the Ryder Cup in 2002 on the dates already reserved for the Solheim Cup. Explained Jonathan Miller, senior vice president of NBC television: “We told them, ‘No, we are not going to jeopardize the Solheim Cup – what it means to us and to the game.’ They respected our position and moved to the following week.”
Consider the pickle in which NBC finds itself. This is the network of the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup. In 2002, NBC must telecast these two premier events in back-to-back weeks on two different continents.
“We’ll have our A team on both events,” Miller promised. “(Executive producer) Tommy Roy and his team will go right from Interlachen (Country Club in Edina, Minn.) to England. We’ll actually do our Ryder Cup preview show from the Solheim Cup.”
Divided opinions exist about the future of the Solheim Cup. My prediction is that the event will be played in 2002 and 2004, then will be switched into an odd-year rotation and will be played in 2005. This would put women professionals in the awkward position in 2004 of trying to qualify for two Solheim Cup teams at once – the final year of qualifying for the 2004 Cup and the first year of qualifying for the 2005 Cup.
John Solheim, president and chairman of Ping, has said he will wait until after the 2002 event to make any decisions. However, the 2004 Solheim Cup in Sweden is the centerpiece of the 100-year anniversary of the Swedish Golf Federation. It is unlikely to be moved up to 2003.
Looking ahead to 2004, there are several obstacles for the Solheim Cup. The Ryder Cup quickly gobbled up the available Sept. 17-19 dates. Other weekends in September present conflicts for NBC on a busy sports schedule. NBC also has the Olympics from Athens, Greece, in August.
The window for the Solheim Cup in 2004 is early August. The competition has never been held this early in the season, but there may be no other choice.
The lesson here: It’s men first, women second.
In another arena, I wish I could report that women are making giant strides in the college coaching ranks, but many colleges still select men to coach their women’s golf teams.
When coaching vacancies for the women’s golf team occurred at Arizona and Arizona State – both with multiple national championships – the two schools hired men with no head coaching experience and no experience at coaching women. Major conference schools such as Purdue, Wisconsin and Washington State each employ one man to coach the men’s and women’s golf teams. Maryland picked a man who had never been a head coach to organize and start its women’s golf program.
I am not saying these men lack talent or dedication. But their appointments seem to fit a pattern of women being bypassed.
It’s not that women haven’t proved their ability, either. Coaches such as Arizona State’s Linda Vollstedt, Tulsa’s Dale McNamara, Oklahoma State’s Ann Pitts and Georgia’s Beans Kelly became legends.
One of the problems is the influence of alumni and benefactors. Billy Booster may not be able to play football or basketball in middle age, but he can play a mean game of golf – and you can be sure he has an opinion about which one of his buddies should get that plum coaching job.
It makes you proud to be a man, doesn’t it?