Posted by: Mike Cornelius | November 7, 2014

If Only I Could Play Like A Girl

A NOTE TO READERS: Unfortunately a real job remains one of life’s necessities. This post was delayed due to a particularly grueling work schedule. The regular Thursday and Sunday schedule resumes with the next post.

The Board of Directors of the PGA of America moved with remarkable speed to strip President Ted Bishop of his office the week before last, less than a day after the 60-year old made the bizarre decision to attack European star Ian Poulter on Twitter and Facebook. In his just released autobiography Poulter, who seems to live for the biennial Ryder Cup matches, had some unkind words for both 2008 European team captain Nick Faldo and this year’s captain of the losing American squad, Tom Watson.

Poulter was angered by comments 6-time major winner Faldo made as a broadcaster during this year’s matches, when he described Sergio Garcia as “useless” during the 2008 competition. Poulter wrote that he and his 2014 teammates lost a lot of respect for Faldo after learning of his comments, and added “It makes me laugh. Faldo is talking about someone being useless at the 2008 Ryder Cup. That’s the Ryder Cup where he was captain. That’s the Ryder Cup where the Europe team suffered a heavy defeat.” As for Watson, who had already endured thinly veiled criticism from Phil Mickelson at Team USA’s post-defeat press conference, Poulter wrote that the 8-time major winner’s decisions were bizarre and gave Team Europe a real boost.

Bishop, who had less than a month remaining in his two-year term as PGA President, personally selected Watson as this year’s American captain and was a guest at Faldo’s golf academy at the The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia when he learned of the excerpts from the book. He took to one of Poulter’s favorite means of communication, Twitter, posting “Faldo’s record stands by itself. Six majors and all-time RC points. Yours vs. His? Lil Girl.” Shortly thereafter he added a post on his Facebook page that read, “Sounds like a little school girl squealing during recess. C’MON MAN!”

One can’t help but wonder what would lead a presumably mature 60-year old adult holding a leadership position in a national organization to think that a tweet or a Facebook update as juvenile as either of Bishop’s posts could possibly be a good idea. Within an hour the soon to be former PGA President’s Twitter account was being barraged by responses calling him sexist. By the next morning, and well after Bishop had deleted both posts, he was being pilloried by callers to the Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” program. The fact that in the intervening time a statement released by the PGA’s Director of Communications and Bishop’s own quotes to an AP reporter came across as classic non-apology apologies only added fuel to the fire. By late that afternoon, after Bishop apologized to the 21-person Board during a teleconference, he was voted out.

In the wake of these swift moving events there have been a few pundits who have seen the entire affair as a case of political correctness run amok. Certainly Bishop’s calling Poulter a “little school girl” seems less offensive than the homophobic slur uttered by American golfer Patrick Reed and picked up by the television microphones during Thursday’s opening round of the World Golf Championships event in Shanghai. It should be noted that during his tenure as PGA President, Bishop took the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews to task for its men-only membership policy, a stance which the Club’s membership finally abandoned less than two months ago. There have also been more than a few professional golf writers who seem to have taken particular delight in Bishop’s downfall; a reaction that appears to go beyond the issue of an offensive tweet to reflect disdain for the Indiana club pro who displayed a particular love for cameras and microphones during his 23 months in charge of the PGA. English journalist James Corrigan characterized Bishop as “a camera-obsessed buffoon.”

Apart from opinions about Bishop, the fact that the head of a 27,000 member organization dedicated to promoting the game of golf thought, if even for a minute, that the “little girl” reference was a clever put-down illustrates a fundamental problem with the sport. Golf remains a male-dominated sport and industry in which all too often women are considered second class citizens.

There are countless private clubs across the country with men’s grills, clubby little testosterone sanctuaries. Rarely do such clubs offer their women members a similar retreat. It’s not unheard of for a club to restrict certain prime tee times to men only. Then of course there is Burning Tree, the super-exclusive club just outside Washington, D.C. The Alistair MacKenzie designed course has been played by presidents and generals, by countless members of Congress and foreign leaders, but it is not played by women. Not only is the club membership restricted to men, women are rarely even allowed on the grounds. An exception is made in the pro shop in the weeks before Christmas, so that dutiful and doting wives can shop for a special something for their husbands.

The problem is not limited to private country clubs. Stacy Lewis, who has spent two periods ranked world number one, could become the first American since Betsy Lewis in 1993 to win the LPGA money title, the Player of the Year competition, and the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average. She leads all three races with just three tournaments remaining. That dominance earned her a spot on the cover of the November issue of Golf magazine. But she was the first female golfer on the magazine’s cover since 2003.

For a sport that has seen a dramatic decline in amateur participation over the past decade, such ongoing misogyny borders on the suicidal. It also misses a rather large point. Last June at the Women’s U.S. Open, 11-year old Lucy Li became the youngest person of either gender to make it through qualifying and play in either of our country’s national golf championships. In August 14-year old Lauren Thibodeau finished second in the New Hampshire Women’s Amateur. A two-time winner of the state’s junior women’s title, she received an exemption into the LPGA’s developmental tour event the following week. Those two youngsters played like girls because, well, because they are girls. But they also played, as do many thousands of their sisters, at a level about which most guys can only dream.


  1. The LPGA should hire you.

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