Whaley calls Bishop 'not sexist;' agrees with PGA's ouster

Whaley calls Bishop 'not sexist;' agrees with PGA's ouster

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Whaley calls Bishop 'not sexist;' agrees with PGA's ouster

So, when the news of Ted Bishop’s faux pas surfaced and morphed into a controversy large enough to cost him his job, just where was Suzy Whaley?

In Duluth, Ga., at TPC Sugarloaf, assisting with what is one of the quietest success stories within the boundaries of the PGA of America: the PGA Junior League Golf Championship.

In simplest terms, it’s Little League for young golfers. “The most inclusive environment ever. We’re doing amazing things with this program,” Whaley said of the team golf concept, complete with kids wearing numbers on the backs of their shirts. “We had kids being introduced to golf, and we had girls playing with boys. Funny, to be there, an inclusive setting, when I was asked to comment on Ted’s comments.”

The kicker to Bishop’s tweet Thursday night was calling Ian Poulter a “Lil’ Girl” for his criticism of Nick Faldo and Tom Watson. On his Facebook page, Bishop was even stronger against the Englishman: “Really? Sounds like a little school girl squealing during recess.”

The reaction was swift and impactful. The next day, the PGA of America’s Board of Directors called for Bishop’s resignation as the group’s president; when he refused, the board relieved him of his duties with one month left in his term and stripped him of a pending honorary-president title.

As all that was going on, Whaley was riding a wave of emotions in suburban Atlanta. On the one hand, as a PGA professional who owns her teaching facility in Connecticut with an emphasis on young juniors, Whaley was thrilled to see the culmination of another successful year with the PGA Junior League. Yet, she is considered a strong candidate for secretary of the PGA of America in a vote that will take place during the annual meeting Nov. 20-22, and it was a rough few days for the group in which she’s so vested.

Whaley offered to The Associated Press and Golf Channel, among others, that she fully supported the board’s decision to replace Bishop with Derek Sprague as interim president. (Sprague is expected to be named president at the annual meeting.) Calling Bishop’s words “insulting,” Whaley told AP that she believes golf can “empower young girls” and that she was baffled by Bishop’s choice of words.

“I was extremely disappointed,” Whaley said, “and they were definitely sexist.”

Three days later, Whaley was not backing down from her support of the board’s decision to impeach Bishop. But given the roller-coaster weekend, she wanted to make it clear that she respected so much about Bishop. “I worked with him for three years; he has two daughters; he has a great family; he’s worked hard to make golf ‘inclusive,’ “ Whaley said Monday. “There’s no doubt in my mind that Ted is not sexist.”

That’s why Whaley doesn’t agree with some media folks who said women in golf should have been outraged by Bishop’s words. Remember, Whaley in 2003 earned a spot into the starting field of the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship (then the Greater Hartford Open) and heard her fair share of barbs. Yet along the way she also discovered open arms and warm support, so Whaley appreciates that her colleagues are sizing up the full picture with this Bishop saga.

“I think (women in the PGA) are trying to balance and understand,” she said. “They know Ted as a PGA member and what he has done, how he’s brought initiatives to make golf inclusive. They know him as a person, and they know he’s not sexist.”

Jane Blalock said it’s easy to explain why there wasn’t such a backlash. “If (the PGA of America) had done nothing, there might have been outrage, but they handled it well,” said the 27-time LPGA winner whose JBC Golf management company conducts the LPGA Golf Clinics for Women and the Legends Tour. “He had to go, and that’s what they did.”

The fact that the LPGA tour was in China and officials and players were understandably hours behind the news helps explain the slow reaction cycle, too, but Whaley added that the sensitive nature of the aggression doesn’t call for outrage but a reasoned thought process. In the end, Whaley gave more weight to Bishop’s position and the responsibility that came with it.

“He’s not a sexist, but the comments he made were offensive to half the population,” she said. “He has a higher responsibility. Ted is 100 percent dedicated, but this is not about Ted; it’s bigger than him. It’s about understanding your position and what you say.”

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