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Friday
Apr042014

LPGA Commish Issues Statement On Controversy That No One Even Knew Existed!

A rare mis-step from LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan, who oddly felt compelled to issue his condemnation of the current Golf Digest cover featuring Paulina Gretzky.

The "controversy" consisted of some questions and honest answers from LPGA players. This statement-worthy moment only festered after Whan issued this statement via email to all media, which at least was dumped on a Friday evening. Still..

Obviously we’re disappointed and frustrated by the editorial direction (and timing) Golf Digest has chosen with the announcement of its most recent magazine cover.
 
If a magazine called Golf Digest is interested in showcasing females in the game, yet consistently steers away from the true superstars who’ve made history over the last few years, something is clearly wrong.
 
Inbee Park wins 3-straight major championships in 2013.  Stacy Lewis, in 2012, becomes the first American to win Rolex Player of the Year since 1994.  Lexi Thompson and Lydia Ko set historical benchmarks while blossoming as the Tour’s youngest ever champions.  And evidently, not one has been “cover worthy” for Golf Digest.  “Growing the game” means a need for more role models and in these exciting times for women’s golf, the LPGA is overflowing with them.
 
At this point, I’m done talking about it and I hope the attention of the media and fans will shift in the proper direction. 

Uh, their attention is now shifted onto this cover to see what all the fuss is about! And the slideshow.

The true stars representing women’s golf have a grand stage this weekend at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.  I’m confident that the year’s first major championship will result in another compelling champion and the traditional Sunday leap into Poppie’s Pond will grab the media spotlight it so deserves.

Maybe, but this statement isn't helping matters.

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Reader Comments (64)

@Geoff their is a 43 comment thread on your own site that argues otherwise on the non-controversy (and all of the comments weren't even from me!). That plus the fact that it's still all over my twitter feed.
04.4.2014 | Unregistered Commenterelf
Whan answers to the players, and his comments are appropriate. Controversy? I don't think so. Just a tone deaf, brazen grab for eyeballs and sales. And please, I don't care to read any posts by those who refuse to consider the women's game comparable to the one they play. Really? Give 'em hell, Juli, and not a single stroke!
04.4.2014 | Unregistered CommenterPasaplayer
Think what he said, needed to be said. Good for him. He should be vocal as there are some great role models on the LPGA tour who would have been great on the cover.
04.4.2014 | Unregistered CommenterEat It
i'm not saying anything new, but i actually think the comments are warranted. if there hasn't been an LPGA tour player on the cover since 2008, they are seriously missing the mark. ESPECIALLY if they're saying they truly want to "grow the game."

if August can have female members, and Muirfield and the R&A can finally put letting women join their clubs up for a vote, then Golf Digest can put an LPGA player on their cover.
04.4.2014 | Unregistered Commentermmontisano
I am disgusted by the sexist attitude of the mainstream golf media.
04.4.2014 | Unregistered Commenterebrumby
With all due respect to Michael Whan, who has done an excellent job of resuscitating the LPGA Tour from the brink of complete irrelevance, in this case he is playing checkers when he should be playing chess. While on face value, putting Paulina on the cover of Golf Digest seems to be only a gratuitous attempt to cash in on the appeal of "T+A" among golfs core audience, the reality is this cover does so much more and demonstrates the subtle brilliance of Golf Digest. Yes, it's gratuitous. Yes, 55 year old rich white men will enjoy it for obvious reason. But it will also get noticed by every other post-pubescent male with a wifi connection and a connected device. Who is she, why us she on the cover. They will become aware of these facts: "She's the daughter of the greatest player in the history of a sport" and "she is engaged to a really cool young, rich professional athlete that could have could have chosen any sport but chose golf". "He is know as one of the longest players in the game" and "is among a generation of exciting athletes who chase the pursuit of perfection in the greatest game ever invented". "Maybe I should try this golf thing out". If that only happens with 1/100 non-Golfers who take notice of this cover, the game grows and Michael Whan's job security continues to improve...
04.4.2014 | Unregistered CommenterG's10%er
Btw here is a partial list of (non golf digest affiliated) media covering this apparent non-controversy: USA Today, AP, ESPN (on multiple platforms including the web and Mike & Mike), Golf Channel, GMA. But you're right no one was talking about it.

Honestly, this might be a great thing for the LPGA, when was the last time most of those media outlets even remembered it existed? Golf Digest too
04.4.2014 | Unregistered Commenterelf
Really disappointed in Golf Digest and surprised at how tone-deaf this post is. I canceled my longtime subscription today. Golf, and the many great journalists who have worked for Golf Digest over the years, deserve better than this pandering. I think the LPGA and its members have every reason to speak out on this subject. Golf Digest does something offensive to many who play and love the game and a statement criticizing it "isn't helping matters?"
04.4.2014 | Unregistered CommenterTNgolfer
Maybe he should be known as Mike Whine from this point. However, his complaint will draw more attention to the circuit than an LPGA regular on the cover might.

Golf Digest is trying to tell newsstand copies with this cover, the same way Sports Illustrated has regional covers more weeks than not in the past couple of years.
04.4.2014 | Unregistered CommenterGolden Bell
Not that the opposite would give me pause, but I concur with the prevailing sentiment. I hardly view Whan as having made a "mis-step," rather he's giving his opinion on a truly deplorable move by GD.

I reluctantly viewed the piece on Mrs. Future DJ after seeing one photo in an article elsewhere, which led me to think, "That can't be one of them, surely..." And it was unfortunately so.

I'm no prude, but there is a place for such material and that place is not in a golf magazine of any claimed repute. Somewhere, a shark has been jumped...
04.4.2014 | Unregistered CommenterDJ Watts
Whan is spot on with his criticism of GD, and is no way being a whiner. There are many LPGA players that could have been presented as outstanding examples of fitness, beauty, and golf skill, if that is what they were looking for. His other complaints that their stars have been neglected by GD also rings very true. Creamer made national news with her 70 footer in Singapore - you think that would be enough to get a cover - not to mention that she looks better than Gretzky.
04.4.2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
the What What Championship?......
04.4.2014 | Unregistered Commentergreg c
I completely support Whan in this statement.....good onya fella!
04.4.2014 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
@ G's10%er

if anyone under 30 is aware of this story they either work in golf or stumbled upon it by accident. i am excluding all web viewers who click on anything that shows more T&A than actual substance.

if they stumble upon it and look at the images, that is as far "into" golf as they will get, because the cover subject has nothing to do with the sport of championship golf other than sharing a mattress with, to quote you " a really cool young, rich professional athlete." that she can swing a club and make good contact is surely not why she is on the cover.

as for " But it will also get noticed by every other post-pubescent male with a wifi connection and a connected device." that statement is so pathetic that words fail me. really? Janet Jackson's "nipple-slip" probably did the same. is that where the golf's largest circulation magazine should be aiming? what next? - a scratch-and-sniff centerfold swing sequence of her swing? i haven't checked the interactive video options, maybe it's online already and available for that demographic.

this was an opportunity lost - both for Golf Digest and for "growing the game" - which i am all in favor of, unless it is code for selling more product and promoting resorts with $350 greens fees.

what is my test audience? a forty-something woman and her 19 year-old daughter. they are appalled at this cover and ask what it has to do with the great game i am trying to get them interested in. to quote the 19 year-old - is that the cover of a golf magazine or a trade publication for pole-dancing strippers?

no doubt it is more a reflection of current media marketing and the struggle of magazines to move the needle in some meaningful way. Golf Digest could have chosen an attractive female golfer, dressed her appropriately, and achieved the traffic they are seeking without reinforcing the stereotype of golf being a game suited for old men and outdated sexist behavior.

it's a shame really - because all the women and young girls who love this game, as well as the game of golf itself, if it is to modernize and thrive, deserve so much better.

i wonder what the women, if any, involved in the cover decision had to say. or was it only men in the room when they made this cover choice?

GD has a young woman on the writing staff, who is under 30 and specializes in social media outreach. she is a talented reporter and "gets" the game of golf. i don't know her but i read her work.

one has to wonder, was she consulted? and if she was, did she sign off on it in pursuit of page views and media buzz? did she not advocate for any of the talented women who have made names for themselves with their games, not their curves, or did she go along with the need to create some extra buzz around the product?

for that matter, since we have been drawn into this subject - would that talented reporter have received as much coverage, specifically photographic on the website, if she was the talented journalist/golfer that she is but was a size 12?

obviously the "creating a buzz" angle has worked, look at all the words that are being written about this unfortunate cover choice. the media covering the media (intramurals as Dan Jenkins would call it) - but what a shame.

the magazine could have had both the buzz and the attractive young woman on the cover had they chosen to do so. instead they went just for the sizzle without the actual steak. in the long run all it does is reinforce outdated stereotypes, or perhaps it is just wishful thinking to believe they are outdated.

outdated at least in the real world but not in today's metric-driven media.

Commissioner Whan had no choice but to comment on this issue; both because he has a constituency that justifiably feels ignored and because he surely knows some women and girls who are undecided about the great game of golf, intrigued by its obvious attractions but aware of its cultural baggage and archaic history. the Paulina cover just confirms their worst suspicions.
04.4.2014 | Unregistered CommenterTed Ray's Pipe
Spot on, Pipe, and a shame, too.
04.4.2014 | Unregistered CommenterPasaplayer
Geoff,

I think you really missed the mark with this post and it's tone. That is surprising. Why would you want to minimize this issue? It makes you seem really old fashioned and out of touch.

As a follow up question, why isn't this statement helping matters? Also, what are the "matters" that need helping that Whan's statement isn't helping with? I'm not sure I get why drawing some needed media attention to the continued disregard of LPGA players is such a negative. I understand that GD is trying to sell issues, and that this "controversy" will most likely sell some more issues, but there is a clear need here to speak out about this.
04.4.2014 | Unregistered CommenterTai S
Tai,
I'm a blogger, I'm all for this. I just doubt that the LPGA Tour would like to have this be a focus of the weekend they are contesting their first major. I will maximize as long as the Commish wants to make a stand against magazines using beautiful models on their covers!

I'm curious though, exactly needs speaking out against? Paulina doesn't fit the image of what a woman golfer should look like? Seems kind of like a strange thing for the LPGA to be taking a stand on to me. And especially during its first major.

Interesting that the New York Times left out the number of LPGA players featured on covers of Golf For Women, which sadly folded. And which was owned by the same company as Golf Digest.
04.4.2014 | Registered CommenterGeoff
Golf Digest sells T&A as SI does.

A desperate cover on a magazine in a declining game.
04.4.2014 | Unregistered CommenterBalderdash
This is a proxy fight for what's really bothering them. Hitting out of divots at P#2 this summer.
It's the annual fitness issue and it's brilliant way for a golf mag to have their own "swimsuit issue" every year.
The real problem is women don't support women's sports. (that and real sexism of course.)
Golf for Women was great.
04.4.2014 | Unregistered CommenterRon
Geoff,

As a longtime fan of the blog and especially your keen criticism of the USGA, the PGA Tour, and the technology arms race, I must say that this post strikes as profoundly wrongheaded, so much so that I've finally decided to post a comment. (Sorry, I should also comment positively more often, too.) In part, I'm resistant to the notion that Whan is in the wrong for supporting his players because it promotes further attention to the issue. I'd suggest that your recent posts on the failure of the PGA Tour to attend to slow play — even in the face of fervent comments by players themselves about the problems it poses — reflect an opinion that commissioners should hear out players' concerns, and yet this post scarcely gives credence to LPGA members, like Juli Inkster, who leveled sharp criticism at the cover. So, PGA Tour professionals who complain about slow play deserve a public hearing, but LPGA Tour professionals who complain about the portrayal of their sport should let sleeping dogs lie? That is not only illogical, but is also disservice to the LPGA's rank-and-file.

Yet, my aversion to this post has more to do with its substance. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I read your argument as two-pronged. First, you contend that the original claims of the concerned LPGA members are overstated, of the "It's just a cover, what's the big deal?" variety. Second, you suggest that Whan's statement brings further attention to the offending cover, and is therefore counterproductive. I would like to think I know your writing well enough to ignore the possibility that you're simply defending the hand that feeds you, so I'll set that aside. As for the merits, it seems to me not only that the LPGA players' concerns are valid, but also that they strike at the heart of the tour's rejuvenation. Central to what the LPGA has done in recent years is its reassertion that the tour's players are immensely skilled, charismatic, racially/ethically/nationally diverse, and exciting, and so to devote the cover of golf's most widely read magazine to the sexy, amateur-golfer wife of a PGA Tour pro — rather than, as Whan suggests, to one of the LPGA's many worthy champions of late — is to undermine that work in order to sell magazines. Of all the women who might (as is far too rarely the case) be feature on the Digest's cover, Paulina Gretzsky is self-evidently less deserving than Inbee Park, Suzann Pettersen, Anna Nordquivst, Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer, etc. etc. I agree with Inkster that the magazine would never consider putting the (attractive) husband of a professional woman golfer on the cover.

More to the point: your comments here, that Whan is somehow fanning unhelpful flames, not only misapprehend the commissioner's job (as explained above), but also seem to miss the larger purpose of Whan's statement, which is to draw fruitful attention to the ways in which women golfers are covered/colored by the media. Why shouldn't we pay critical attention to the notion that women in golf should be "sexy"? Why shouldn't we devote what little space in the mainstream golf publications is focused on women in the game to those who work hard, play well, and care more deeply about their own putts than their husbands'? If we are, as you so vociferously contend on this website, to "grow the game," then we would do well to promote forms of engagement with women that suggest women play golf; women are great at golf; being great at golf (as a woman or as a man) doesn't require wearing a crop top; and most importantly that women playing golf, being great at golf, and growing the game among those close to them is not in fact predicated on appearance, marriage to golfers, or the ability to sell magazines.

I do hope you'll rethink your position on this, or at least clarify it — and many apologies for the inordinately long comment.
04.5.2014 | Unregistered CommenterMatt
Well, let's just realize that money talls. That's why Paulina (certainly aided by TaylorMade Adidas Golf ad dollars) made the cover and that's why this blog - one which I've previously admired thanks to it's refreshingly fearless attitude towards what's politically correct - tries to downplay the issue (as Golf Digest has the writer on it's pay-roll).

Simple (and sorry) as that.
04.5.2014 | Unregistered CommenterO
Sex sells. I guess there are lots of GD subscription coming up for renewal.
04.5.2014 | Unregistered CommenterTom
Taking up for your players is hardly a bad move.

At trial here though is Golf Digest and its Seinfeldian message to women golfers, get hotter or "no cover for you"
04.5.2014 | Unregistered CommenterNo Longer
Mike Whan was right in criticizing Golf Digest and pointing out its lack of coverage of the LPGA over the years.
A much bigger issue he should address however, is the low level of support for the women's pro game among women themselves.
Go to any pro-am before an LPGA or a Symetra Tour event and you will see that 90 percent or more of the amateurs playing in those are men. It is those men who are shelling out hundreds and thousands of dollars each week that are relied upon by the tours as a significant part of their operating budgets.
Golf Digest understands that it is men who open their wallets for its advertisers. It should come as no surprise that it would put a scantily-clad "celebrity" on its cover to attract more male readers. It tried for 20 years with "Golf For Women" magazine to attract the female golfer audience, but the numbers weren't there and that magazine folded.
Step up, ladies. If you want the LPGA and Symetra Tour to be successful, support them with deeds (bucks) and not just words.
04.5.2014 | Unregistered CommenterDaveAndrews
A blatant attempt to use T&A to goose sales of the mag - LPGA commish totally justified in his outrage. This cover diminishes the game as it simply reinforces the stereotype of golfers as older rich white guys & women as pretty toys to be ogled. No way to grow the game GD boys! Rounds are down, courses trying to attract women & youth to the game, so you figure you'll lend a hand by offending them with that cover??? I was a Golf for Women subscriber, unhappy when it folded but assured by letter from editor/Conde Naste that GD would support & promote ladies golf. I assumed they meant all women, not just centrefolds. This ain't the way to do it.
The cover and the overall different look and focus of articles is probably the doing of Anna Wintour. The same woman who put Kanye and Kim on Vouge and who has overall artistic control of al Conde Nast publications. First FootGolf now this, shame Golf Digest, shame
04.5.2014 | Unregistered CommenterDownInOne
Geoff,

I've followed your writing since you were a columnist in Golfdom back in the day. It's been fun to watch your career ascend through the years. This post and your comment here are quite sad to me. This is the first post I've ever read on this site where you sound like a mouthpiece for GD. The description of "tone deaf" is spot on. Whan's comments are professional, factual and are completely in line with his job. He's speaking out to support his tour players and highlighting how they're ignored. Calling his statement a mis-step is laughable.
04.5.2014 | Unregistered CommenterPete the Luddite
Pete,
Let's talk about this issue all weekend, flesh it out on all fronts, and then on Monday, when we haven't paid attention to the Kraft Nabisco because of Mike Whan's statement, we can than discuss whether this statement, in response to some player quotes in response to one reporter asking them about the cover, was a good idea.

I'm curious how many of the outraged here subscribed to Golf For Women magazine? Where were you all? It sure could have used your devotion to covering the women's game.
04.5.2014 | Registered CommenterGeoff
Whan's statement is a brilliant distraction from the real issue: the first major has no sponsor next year and has a totally uncertain future. That's the only reason to have made a controversy out of this. Great distraction.
04.5.2014 | Unregistered CommenterDavidC
I wouldn't be too worried about the future of the "Kraft Nabisco" major. If Mike Whan has proven anything he is a fantastic marketer and promoter of the tour. The tour is also in much better shape than it has been in many years, thanks largely to him. I expect bigger and better things next year, as far as a new sponsor goes, for the tour's first major of the season.
04.5.2014 | Unregistered CommenterDaveAndrews
Geoff,

I think it's clear in Whan's statement what needs speaking out against: a lack of prominent exposure for LPGAers in favor of a celebrity with some light ties to the game. This was clearly a big story the timing of which Whan couldn't control. Sometimes you just have to play the cards dealt to you, and I think that he really had to address this issue. I'm sure that everyone involved wishes we could be talking about the ladies' major this weekend. However, this story seems to have gotten more exposure on your blog than the Kraft—is that really because of Whan?

One could also take a more cynical view and say that Whan was taking advantage of a big story and increasing media exposure for the LPGA at exactly the time when he would like more viewers. After all, if any exposure is a good thing...

Lastly, of course there were LPGA players on the cover of the now folded Golf For Women. Because that publication was owned by the same owners of GD doesn't give them a pass here. Who are you trying to convince with that argument? Also, why are we incapable of talking about multiple issues simultaneously? This lack of focus argument is typically how the status quo just keeps moving right along.
04.5.2014 | Unregistered CommenterTai S
To quote Yogi Berra about women's golf in general.." You can't stop them if they don't want to come".
There's a reason why womens golf publications are dead as a dodo- no interest beyond it's base.
As far as Golf Digest, you do what sells to your target demo. I have old Golf World issues from the 80's with Jan Stephenson showing her 'goods". Is that any better because she golfed professionally?
My only quibble was putting Paulina on it...ugh.
04.5.2014 | Unregistered Commenterjjshaka
I think the commish did the right thing too!
04.5.2014 | Unregistered CommenterChicago pt
Obviously putting paulina on the cover is an enormous insult to the LPGA. But golf digest is on geoff s paycheck. Now tell me again why I should care about women at ancc and the r&a? Golf digest says the only women we need in golf have great racks.
04.5.2014 | Unregistered Commenternyc
@Geoff

a) the cover was sparking controversy on twitter before the LPGA player comments

b) this is probably the most coverage the LPGA has gotten on mainstream media in years, what are the odds Mike & Mike would have mentioned the Kraft tournament otherwise?

c) so if I'm a woman golfer I have to buy subscriptions to two golf digest magazines? It's to much to ask that the main magazine that purports to be about golf, actually covers golf played by double-X golfers? (which it actually does) Or occasionally promote them by placing them on the cover at least once every 6! years or so?
04.5.2014 | Unregistered Commenterelf
Two points: Whan and the LPGA did not create any "controversy". Rather GD upstaged the womens' first major with the timing and subject of this cover. Inoffensive fitness issue? C'mon. Ms. Gretsky's got no cred in that area, and certainly none in golf. I'll be watching in Rancho Mirage today for all the fit golf babes who would have been a much more relevant cover choice, or perhaps a compilation cover/article. There are many to choose from. I'm also willing to guess they are better company and have better table manners than Ms. Gretsky.

As for Golf for Women, I subscribed for years until Stena and crew folded. I thoroughly enjoyed each issue. FWIW, I no longer subscribe to GD.
04.5.2014 | Unregistered CommenterPasaplayer
Geoff,

I'm with the large number of your readers that feel that values and principles trump timing and publicity focus. Whan had to respond to GD timing on behalf of all female golfers especially his members. I, like others, disappointed in your analysis, but I'm most disappointed that in the face of so many knowledgable critics you defend your analysis. Dormie
04.5.2014 | Unregistered CommenterDormie
Time for me to pile on.

I'm with JJ immediately above: it's not that a slinky, non-LPGA golfer was featured, it was the fact that she is only barely, remotely involved in the game at all. Think back to last year when the even more curvaceous Holly Sonders made the "fitness issue" cover.... there was hardly the same litany of complaints because we all recognized that -- great body or not -- Sonders was/is a serious golfer at a high level of competition and enjoys a prominent career in the golf industry. Gretzky, however, can only be labeled by the magazine as a "new golfer" who -- by the way -- is also now famous for her engagement to a touring pro as well as being the world's most prolific producer of scantily-clad "selfies." I enjoy the idea of attractive golfers/women as much as the next "55 year old rich man" but there's a serious disconnect here and I simply cannot help but resent the fact that the editors choose to employ a mammoth stretch when awarding a "prestigious" cover to someone so undeserving.

As for LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan, he's simply acting in a responsible manner by stating his support for his constituents. To simply stick his head in the sand and ignore the controversy would have been somewhat gutless so I applaud his action. I hardly think that standing by his players will detract from a leaderboard that includes Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson and if anything will draw more attention to the Kraft/Nabisco/Dinah. For the record, I've caught some of the Thursday/Friday/Saturday action from Mission Hills with no help from Paulina.

And Geoff? << I'm curious how many of the outraged here subscribed to Golf For Women magazine? Where were you all? It sure could have used your devotion to covering the women's game. >> I'm sure it could have but why would I subscribe to a magazine that wasn't directed at me? Sorry, I'm not a woman.... so I passed on that one for the same reason I don't subscribe to Hockey Monthly, Calligraphy News and Crustacean Cultivation At Home.
04.5.2014 | Unregistered CommenterBenSeattle
I agree with most of the commentators: Not your brightest hour, Geoff. Have you become a corporate man? Mike Whan was absolutely right to address this farce. If they would put some LPGA star on the cover once in a while no one would have said anything. But the way they treat the women's game, Whan had to say something.
04.5.2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan
I don't fault Whan for saying what he said or when he said it. In fact, I would've been more concerned had he remained quiet about it while his players raised valid points.
04.5.2014 | Unregistered CommenterPA PLAYA

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