In a recent, unrelated post, some comments were made about the LPGA needing some kind of shot to the arm to increase viewership and interest. While those comments were focused more on the influence of Korean golfers, it seems to me that the "problem" is more fundamental and rests with the fans.
I think it's a shame that women golfers have to market themselves to the calendar crowd in order to bolster the viewership. It may be a shame, but at this point, it’s probably necessary. You don't see this happening with the men. I certainly don't want to see a half naked Singh or Daly, but I love to watch them golf.
If we really want the LPGA to grow, we need more good players. If it gets to the point that only the beautiful ones get endorsement packages and the accompanying support that goes with them, regular looking but talented girls will be discouraged from pursuing the sport as a profession. Herein lies the catch-22: the purses are too small (though growing) to inspire the same kind of dedication in female golfers as male golfers. To increase the prize money, we need to generate more revenue. To generate more revenue, what do we need? Better golf or better-looking golf?
The LPGA is an association for professional athletes, not beauty queens. That some of them are stunning ought to be a bonus, not the focus. By focusing on the cover-model golfers, we're kind of growing the interest while narrowing the field with irrelevant standards. One place to start would be with a sponsor (say, Nike) endorsing and promoting the hell out of a good golfer with an interesting personality but maybe not the best looking (say, Christina Kim, or better yet, someone more obscure that we don’t know yet). There’s a saying that “it takes money to make money.” How about some sponsors investing some serious dough for the purses to make it really interesting? And investing in some good golfers to make it about an athletic competition instead of a golf event as the talent portion of some beauty pageant?
It's the age old dilemma... the media show us what they think we want to see because they want our money. We buy their products because it's what's there. Sure, sex sells but so does talent.
Maybe we need an entirely new Association – the BGA (Beautiful Golfers Association) for men and women. We can have a panel that selects the talent (ahem) and they all compete against one another for huge prize money. And we can have judges decide who wins. It wouldn’t be entirely based on score, either - that would just be one segment of the judging. Okay, maybe it’s not an association to rival the PGA and LPGA… it’s more of a bad reality show. But admit it – you’d watch. And it just might stigmatize the selling of sexiness in the LPGA enough to put the focus back on golf there.
I started this by saying that the "problem" might rest with the fans. But only because we're buying what they're selling. Will we buy an LPGA that's about golf?