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"People should know us," says Alcott, who drew some attention by jumping into a greenside lake after winning the Dinah Shore last year. "We've got to do something about why they don't."
"The LPGA is hanging on too much to Nancy Lopez history," says none other than Nancy Lopez. "We have to promote other players. I really believe that we have a better product than we've ever had."
Perhaps, but Hughes Norton of IMG, which represents 17 LPGA players, including Lopez, Stephenson and Davies, believes that the women must guard against overrating their product. "The boom on the men's tours makes it difficult for the women to evaluate where they should be," says Norton.
Says Whitworth, whose 88 tournament wins are the most for any pro, male or female, "Our girls have started to compare themselves with the men, and that is a narrow view."
Blue agrees: "I don't think the LPGA is in competition with men's golf or senior golf. I think we complement each other. The LPGA and PGA tours have the best golfers in the world, so in that sense men's and women's professional golf are the same thing."
In a physical sense, though, they are not. The average drive on the PGA Tour is 260 yards, compared with 215 for the LPGA. Moreover, a male pro can reach the green from, say, 160 yards with a seven-iron, while his female counterpart needs a four-iron from the same distance. Hence, he is more likely to hit his approach closer to the hole. Men also can use their strength to make more spectacular escapes from trouble. The women pros even admit that the men are superior around and on the greens. Throw in the fact that the men play on longer, more difficult courses than the women, and it is hardly surprising that men's golf is more exciting.
The LPGA's reference point for measuring its progress has always been the PGA Tour. In 1980 the women took pride in the fact that their $5.8 million in purses for the year came to nearly half of what the men were playing for. Last year, however, the women competed for only a third of the $37 million in prize money that the PGA Tour offered.
Last year the three major networks and ESPN paid the PGA Tour a total of $26 million for the right to televise nearly all of its 45 events. Tour commissioner Deane Beman uses that money to increase purses and help the sponsors buy more advertising time. He keeps what's left for his burgeoning organization and its myriad business ventures, which include real estate, videos and licensing the PGA name. The LPGA's television rights package is worth about $700,000, and of the 13 LPGA events that will be telecast this year, only five will appear on one of the three major networks.
The LPGA would seem to be an easy sell to advertisers. Women are taking up golf as never before; the National Golf Foundation estimates that they could well constitute nearly half of all golfers by the year 2000. In addition, the audience for most golf telecasts is between 35% and 40% female. "We move products just as effectively after the Dinah Shore as after one of our men's events," says Wayne Robertson, senior vice-president of RJR/Nabisco's sports marketing subsidiary, which invested more than $7 million in the Dinah Shore last year. "We don't find the audience for women's tournaments soft at all."
But what is often behind a tournament sponsorship is a golf-minded CEO who wants to play in the pro-am and to entertain customers and fast-track employees at a fancy venue. In that regard, corporate America has shown that it prefers men to women. "Golf is a very emotional buy," says Janet Thompson, vice-president of advertising for Mazda Motor of America, which still has more than $1 million invested in the women's tour and a substantial amount in the Senior tour. "Tracking data of product sales from golf is mostly bunk. Basically, a lot of CEOs love golf. At Mazda they are golf freaks."