Headlines sum-up the perception of the LPGA

by Renee Mancino on March 30, 2012

69031276Tiger winning at Bay Hill is great news for golf and business. Now what did Yani Tseng’s win at the Kia Classic the very same weekend mean for the LPGA? Probably nothing. Nothing for viewership and nothing for business.

Yani’s accomplishment

· Second straight LPGA Tour title

· Third win in five 2012 events

· At 23 years old, Yani is the second youngest player to reach 15 LPGA Tour victories

The big story from the Kia Classic

“Golf’s Funniest Commercial- Even Funnier Because It’s Not Supposed to Be Funny”

Mirassou Winery, a devoted sponsor of women’s golf including the LPGA and Women on Course took to the airwaves during the tournament debuting a commercial featuring Brittany Lincicome. The critics couldn’t get past the production quality, comparing it to a “commercial made by junior high students”. This criticism of the commercial is not the problem. The author of one article asked if the reader was “ONE OF THE ELEVEN PEOPLE” watching the tournament on the Golf Channel where the commercial aired.

The LPGA’s image and tournament funding has been on a downslide for several years and some will argue the main reason is tour players are not relatable to the US audience. Possibly but the media reporting on golf should own some of the blame. Recently I read an account by one reporter that if Yani were more attractive, her rise in ranks would mean more to the male viewers watching the sport. Huh? Come again?? When John Daley had success sporting a mullet, viewership rose because he was an unattractive underdog, an everyman’s man that could compete with the polished tour players. It’s an old story that goes back to Jack vs. Arnie.

Sexing up the LPGA is not the answer

Babe Didrikson was called the anti-female and yet her popularity rivaled Tiger’s first coming. She wasn’t a phenom winning her first professional tournament at 13, but a very talented athlete in other arenas realizing success in any sport she took on and exciting to watch. She answered her critics by winning and not morphing into a “watchable” feminine golfer. Both men and women admired Babe so it’s hard to believe 60 plus years later Yani’s appearance is to blame for low viewership.

Talent isn’t the issue either. Unlike other sports only a matter of yards separates the professional men from women players. Execution, precision and talent are exactly the same. I’ve heard from many men when women can slam-dunk they will start watching the WNBA. If they actually sat and watched the competition at an LPGA tournament, they would see the equivalent of slam-dunking.

Revisiting the viewer demographic

My research indicates golf tournaments attract male viewers ages 18-35 years old. Where does this leave the LPGA Tour and must it resort to bikini golf if the reporters are correct that attractive winners bring more to the table? This is a complicated dilemma probably requiring some of the PGA of America’s 2.0 dollars earmarked toward market research because one thing I know for sure…casual players watch golf on TV and if women aren’t watching, they aren’t playing.

Renee Mancino

Renee Mancino, located in Chicago, IL, Inclusion and Diversity Consultant to the golf industry, Independent Contractor for the Women on Course Organization, Co-Owner of Chicago Outdoor Media, 20 year amateur golfer, and intent on proving breaking 80 was not a fluke.

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