Lay Off Annika

May  20, 2003

Trevor Matich


Heavens to mergatroid!

Someone put chocolate in my peanut butter!  No, worse!  Someone put peanut butter in my chocolate!

No, even worse--someone let a...a...female golfer compete with the men!!!

To hear the hew and cry surrounding Annika Sorenstam, you'd think the end of the world is nigh.  Annika, as the best lady golfer in the world, was given a sponsor's exemption to play in the Colonial tournament--the first woman in 58 years to compete in the men's PGA Tour.   She will play from the men's tees, on an equal footing (well, except that she might be wearing cuter shoes...).

Vijay Singh, who won the PGA's EDS Byron Nelson tournament last weekend, has been the lightning rod for the view that this is upsetting the sacred order of  PGA  golf.  He had this to say about Annika:  "I hope she misses the cut.  Why?  Because she doesn't belong out here."  He went on to say that he would withdraw from the Colonial if they had the temerity to pair him with her.

To quote Bill Murray in the movie Stripes:  "Lighten up, Francis."  And understand the game you're  playing.  PGA golf is neither brain surgery nor a social laboratory.  It is a show.  It is entertainment.  In that regard, the PGA is identical to the NBA, the NFL, The Matrix, and the Rolling Stones.  It is a vehicle to compete for entertainment dollars.  

As professional athletes, we are like dancers, singers, jugglers, or mimes.  (Okay, I withdraw the comparison to mimes...)   If we don't fill the seats, we are out of work.  If we don't draw potential customers to our sponsors' advertisements, we are useless.  That is ultimately why I had a platform in the NFL, and that is ultimately why you have a PGA tour.

The game is not about golf balls in cups or footballs in endzones.  The game is about eyeballs on advertisements.  

In that regard, Annika has already succeeded brilliantly.  Who but die-hard PGA fans even knew about the Colonial before this?   Name another PGA event this year that has generated more media attention and free advertising.  How many young girls will now ask their dads to teach them to play golf? 

And most compelling, how delicious will it be to see her beat some of the guys?

Annika Sorenstam has shown grace and dignity under pressure.  She has drawn positive attention to the sport to which she has dedicated herself.  And she has put a fright into the men whom she has a chance to defeat.

Annika, you go girl!




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