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Women's Major Golf Deserves Better Than This

By: | Tue 02 May 2023 | Comments

For this week's View From The Fairway, Golfshake's Derek Clements reflects on the recent Chevron Championship and describes why he thinks the women's majors aren't getting the coverage they deserve.

DID you watch the Chevron Championship? It was the first women’s major of 2023 and it was a tournament that had everything - a first-time winner, a playoff, a dramatic finishing par five with a green guarded by water, and players in contention coming to grief at that very hole.

However, one thing that it did not have was atmosphere on account of the sparse crowds who attended the tournament. 

If you are planning to head to Royal Liverpool to see The Open Championship in July you can forget it - tickets sold out months ago. It’s the same story at The Masters - tickets are like gold dust. And, of course, there will be full houses at the US PGA Championship and US Open.

So why were there so few spectators at the Chevron? Well, it is a tournament that has suffered from something of an identity crisis. It was the Dinah Shore. Then it was the Nabisco Championship, the Kraft Nabisco and, finally, the ANA Inspiration. 

However, one thing that did stay the same was the venue. From its inception in 1972 until 2022 it was staged at Mission Hills in California and it came with some traditions, perhaps the most famous of which being the one where the winner would sign her card and then leap into Poppie's Pond along with her caddie.

This year it was moved from Mission Hills in California to Carlton Woods near Houston, Texas. And anybody who fancied seeing the action could have rolled up on the final day and gained entry. The problem is that not many people chose to do so.

And it is not difficult to understand why. This golf tournament is supposed to be one of its sports Crown Jewels but in what other sport would a major change its name so frequently? 

The success of The Masters is down entirely to Augusta National, which has hosted the tournament since day one. The Open, US Open and US PGA Championship follow a rota, ensuring that the world's best golfers face a different examination each time they tee it up. 

But Augusta National is a very special test. Tennis has not suffered from staging Wimbledon, the Australian Open, French Open and US Open at the same venues every year. 

Golf has found a happy balance. And women’s golf has been pretty unique in staging the Dinah Shore and Evian Championship at the same course every year. Until now.

Moving the Chevron to Houston was a mistake. Surely the LPGA could have found a way to keep it at Mission Hills - a venue, by the way, that always attracted decent crowds. 

Lilia Vu, who won in Houston, may disagree. A major win is a major win, no matter where it is achieved. And she did maintain the tournament’s tradition by leaping into the water by the 18th green. However, the weather was cold, the water was freezing and she was lucky not to end up suffering from hypothermia!

The LPGA Tour will point to the record prize fund of $5.1m as justification for the move and I totally get that this was a business decision. But they need to do better in 2024; they need to find a way encourage the locals to come and watch the world’s best women golfers fighting it out for the season’s first major. And if that means drastically reducing admission costs then that it precisely what they should do.

It really doesn’t help that women’s golf doesn’t get the coverage it probably merits - the printed media barely recognises its existence and broadcasters tend to treat it as an afterthought.

It would be a huge bonus if women’s golf had a charismatic superstar. It strikes me that play is far too slow and that too many of the women who dominate the leaderboards are automatons. They need to realise that they have a duty to engage with fans. Failure to do so is likely to see more majors played in front of a handful of spectators. And nobody wants that.

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What do you think? leave your comments below (Comments)

Tags: lpga LET


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