In the afterglow of victory at the Volunteers of America Classic, 43-year-old Angela Stanford referred to her seventh career LPGA title as a “bright spot.”
In this year of overwhelming hardship and uncertainty, we cling tighter than ever to bright spots. It’s the silver linings that are keeping us sane.
On Wednesday of last week, Stanford’s mother, Nan, finished radiation for a spot found on her liver. Nan has battled breast cancer for more than half of Stanford’s 20-year career. While Angela’s father, Steve, watched every shot at the Old American Golf Club, Nan was there when it was over, waiting just off the 18th green with a warm embrace. It marked the first time Stanford’s parents have been able to watch her win on the LPGA in person, and it happened just down the road from their Saginaw, Texas, home.
It’s hard to imagine a better scene than that one unfolding on the eve of the 75th U.S. Women’s Open, the crown jewel of women’s golf. Every major that takes place these days feels like some kind of miracle. The USGA’s commitment to provide an opportunity for 156 women to compete for a purse of $5.5 million, life-changing paychecks in some cases, as a global pandemic rages on is no small thing. I am reminded of Sarah Jane Smith, who decided after a fifth-place payday of $182,487 at the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open that she felt financially secure enough to start to a family.
There are no automatics in women’s golf. No guarantees.
LPGA Hall of Famer Karrie Webb told some of the younger players on tour that if a pandemic had shut down the world earlier in her career, there probably wouldn’t have been any kind of LPGA season. That’s a testament to LPGA commissioner Mike Whan and the kind of relationships that exist between the tour and its sponsors.
A first-ever December U.S. Women’s Open presents a unique opportunity for the women’s game. This year the championship, to be played Dec. 10-13 at Champions Golf Club in Houston, isn’t competing against a marquee PGA Tour event or backed up to a men’s major. It’s an ideal time for the golf world to hype up the women’s tour. Make it the talk of twitter and top-of-mind on television segments and websites rather than just an afterthought.
Let the women lead this week.
USGA social channels have been promoting a #womenworthwatching hashtag and shining light on a stat that makes something we all know to be true look even worse than we thought.
Only 4 percent of sports coverage includes women’s sports or female athletes. Yet, according to Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, 40 percent of all sports participants are female.
We believe that women's golf is worth watching.
— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) December 7, 2020
It’s impossible to justify 4 percent.
Not when the best story in golf this year came from Sophia Popov, the little-known German who scripted that unbelievable tale at Royal Troon. The wiry player who oozes personality backed up that AIG Women’s British Open victory too, making six straight cuts and posting three top-25 finishes since then.
Jason Day, Bryson DeChambeau and Max Homa are among the PGA Tour players who have tweeted their support for the Women’s Open. This simple act from male athletes can’t be done enough, and should be done by all influencers until the stars of this tour are household names.
— Bryson DeChambeau (@b_dechambeau) December 5, 2020
The USGA’s switch from Fox back to NBC benefits the women’s game most. TV ratings for last year’s final round of the U.S. Women’s Open were the worst on record. Golf Channel’s coverage of the event not only tournament week but also in the weeks leading in are critical to drive interest. The U.S. Women’s Amateur ratings last August, for example, were the highest in history, up nearly 300 percent versus 2019 on FS1.
While there’s no men’s major to compete with, there is football. And, as the Masters showed us, nothing can compete with the NFL’s monster ratings.
But there’s still a chance for something special to happen this week. There’s still reason to blow up the golf space with wall-to-wall women’s coverage and try to lure in some of the new golfers who have caused participation rates to soar in 2020. The National Golf Foundation says recreational golf hasn’t enjoyed a surge this big (around 50 million rounds) since Tiger Woods burst on the scene in 1997.
Women’s golf doesn’t have the luxury of an iconic American player like Woods to send interest and purses into another galaxy. Not yet anyway.
Instead, it will take the purposeful actions of an army of supporters to turn the story of a pitiful 4 percent coverage rate into something meaningful for future generations.
The world can’t have enough bright spots.
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/12/07/us-womens-open-covid-2020-women-worth-watching/