A few weeks ago a reporter asked me how The LPGA should market itself, and I told him what I've believed since I joined the tour, in 1999: "We should market sex," I said. "Sex sells." My comments created quite a stir, and virtually all the feedback I've received from the other players—from Hall of Famers to rookies—has been positive. The LPGA already has a core group of golf fans, but to really grow, it needs to win over the general sports fan, and a great way to do that is to promote our sex appeal.
Laura Baugh and Jan Stephenson went down that road in the 1970s and '80s, and they created a lot of interest in the LPGA. Laura never won a tournament, but her good looks garnered tons of exposure for herself and the tour. Laura did so many endorsements that in 1976 she made $300,000-less than 10% of which was tournament winnings. Jan, who won 16 events, including three majors, posed for an LPGA-produced magazine that showed her in a Marilyn Monroe-like pinup photo and appeared seductively on a self-published poster bearing the suggestive line, PLAY A ROUND WITH ME!!
I don't think the LPGA should be as provocative as Jan was, but sex appeal can be promoted tastefully. The new campaign for a popular deodorant does just that. The commercials show a bunch of women marching in army boots and camouflage-style short shorts and short tops. The ads make the point that women can sweat and be tough but still be feminine.
The LPGA needs to acknowledge that a lot of people watch women's sports more for the women than for the sports. Why else would Anna Kournikova, who has never won a singles title, be the most popular player in women's tennis? We have quite a few attractive women, and we should use our looks to our advantage. After all, what's so wrong with seeing an occasional belly button?