Aug
3
2009
Did Catriona Matthew’s Win Give Women’s Golf a Boost?
By Stephanie Wei under General

First off, congratulations to Catriona Matthew on winning the Women’s British Open. It is very impressive she won only ten weeks after having her second child. Just as much as it is balancing being a mother and touring professional golfer — which isn’t exactly your average job nor is it easy.

I’m sure the Brits and Scots are thrilled one of their own won the major championship. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We all cheer for players from our countries. I bet most Americans were rooting for Christina Kim. I was. She placed T3. And the Japanese were hoping Ai Miyazato could capture her second win in a row. She also finished T3.

Anyway, I read Mark Reason’s column in the Telegraph on Saturday. He argued a Matthew win would inspire the mothers across the world and perhaps provide a boost for women’s golf. You know, because it’s been hurting from the flood of the “Asian Tsunami.” Here’s an excerpt:

In recent years they have taken over the LPGA Tour. Asians have won five of the last seven tournaments on the LPGA and four of the previous seven majors. How many of you out there can name the current holders of the women’s majors. Indeed how many can even name the four majors.

None of this would matter a jot, of course, if the game was amateur. But it is not and the thing that distinguishes professional golf from the amateur game is the need to entertain people. If no one in the west is identifying with a lot of these players, then the women’s game is heading for a massive commercial crash in America and Europe…There is only one woman out there who moves the ratings dial and that is Michelle Wie.

I understand Reason’s point, but some of his language is borderline bigoted. Here’s a good question — did a Matthew win have a huge impact for women’s golf? I think not. She wasn’t exactly the most exciting player to watch.

Golf is an entertainment sport (well, some would argue otherwise.) But he seems to suggest that stand-in LPGA commissioner Martha Evans should limit the number of international players (read: Asian or non-white) on the Tour. Like I said a few weeks ago in this post, that would go over so well.

Americans/Europeans simply need to start playing better. Or Michelle Wie needs to fulfill those huge expectations we have for her. Not one person can “save” women’s golf. Sure, we’re all hoping she secures her first win and then continues to dominate — like Annika did for years. More important, figure out how to MARKET them better. Encourage the Asians to get better managers. Take Anna Rawson’s advice (sarcasm). Think outside the box.

The players shouldn’t revolve around the LPGA; the LPGA should revolve around its players.

Whatever. Not all the Asian players are dull and/or lack personality. There are some charming ones (e.g., Ai Miyazato). Yani Tseng is great. Just look at her Twitter feed. Jiyai Shin is also a delight. She’s worked hard on improving her English and she’s likable. It’s arguable a repeat win from her would have had a larger international effect. Correct me if I’m wrong, but there were probably more Koreans watching than Brits/Scots.

Other players are marketable as well. Take Christina Kim for example. In my opinion, she’s more entertaining and appealing to people globally than anyone else out there. I understand she might not have the same “impact” Michelle would, but she’s got game.

It’s a transitional phase for women’s golf right now. There have been a lot of changes recently and we can’t expect the “problems” to be resolved overnight.

Point being, we should take a more introspective look and stop using the Asians as the scapegoat.

Maybe it’s more of a sign of the times. Are Americans and Europeans spending less on golf? Probably. Are Asians spending more? Probably. More specifically – I know in Japan at least – the market share of golf spending hasn’t decreased all that much despite the recession. You know why? Because women are spending more than ever on golf. Men’s spending has actually decreased. Long story short, though: There would be lots of negative implications to limiting or suppressing Asian golfers on the LPGA. It’s not just a white person’s sport anymore.

Just wait until the Chinese jump on board. And hell, the Indians too (even if that’s 20 years down the line).

[Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images Europe]