After last week’s column about member-guest scoring formats, I wanted to write something about a topic I’ve never covered before. And while it took me some time to come up with something, I think I finally nailed it — the LPGA Tour.
It actually seems a bit ridiculous that I hadn’t written about one of the three major U.S. professional golf tours in the past.
And I guess, therein lies the problem.
I don’t necessarily know that problem is the correct term, but when I think of the LPGA tour I think of a professional tour that is trying hard to “get to the next level” but hasn’t gotten there yet.
So my question is, why not?
The tournament schedule is solid. They have plenty of national, regional and local sponsors for their tournaments. I think they finally have the right mix of majors. And their prize money per tournament is surprisingly (to me at least) high.
And yet, I feel like in order to watch a tournament on TV, you either have to have ESPN9 or watch the Golf Channel from 3-5 a.m.
Call it deduction, or just a hunch, but I think the problem is with the players. Not that they’re bad golfers — in fact, they’re probably better now than ever.
I think the problem is that the stars of today lack the star power from past generations.
I can remember pretty clearly the Phar-Mor of Youngstown LPGA Tournament, which later became the Giant Eagle tournament hosted at Squaw Creek and Avalon Lakes.
I remember going to watch the best players of the day compete on familiar courses and being in awe of what I saw: Nancy Lopez, Pat Bradley, Betsy King, Beth Daniel, Patty Sheehan, Amy Alcott, Julie Inkster, Tammy Green, Donna Andrews, “Big Mama” Joanne Carner, sisters Danielle and Dina Ammaccapanne, Jane Crafter and Deborah Mahaffey, just to name a few.
Those women were the stars of the day. They were phenomenal golfers. And they won tournaments — lots of them.
But from that time period to right now, I can really only think of three LPGA stars that actually won a lot of tournaments over a sustained period of time.
Obviously, Annika Sorenstam was the star of stars, amassing arguably the greatest career in the history of the Tour. I picture Karie Webb winning a lot. And I remember Lorena Ochoa was a star that dominated the game. Unfortunately for the Tour, Webb is the only one still playing.
Which gets me to the stars of today. I actually sat down and hand wrote all of the stars I could think of playing today. I actually came up with 11 names. And I bet if every person reading this sat down and wrote down 11 LPGA Tour players, at least seven of the 11 would be the same.
Lexi Thompson’s won a few events. Paula Creamer won the U.S. Open at Oakmont a few years ago. Morgan Pressel was a young phenom I don’t hear a lot about these days. Stacy Lewis is the world’s best player, and yet I still don’t see her as a huge star.
And I don’t remember hearing Natalie Gulbis’ name all year.
So who out there is going to be the next great LPGA star to dominate the game and revive and/or elevate the Tour to new heights?
Let’s just call this a hunch, but I’m guessing I wasn’t the only person rooting for Michele Wie to win her first major at last month’s U.S. Women’s Open.
And I don’t know that it’s the best answer out there. But I’m also guessing I’m not the only one hoping she wins a lot more. Quickly.
Tiger Woods inspired a generation of young men to play golf. Here’s hoping Michele Wie can do the same for young women.
Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance for The Karzmer Insurance Agency and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.