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Mallon gives LPGA wisdom, Sharapova gives tennis sex appeal

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

I know I'm going to be branded as sexist, misogynistic, addle-brained and very, very shallow for this. I'll admit to the latter, but here goes, anyway.

I'm betting the LPGA would switch the winner of its biggest event with the winner of the marquee tournament in women's tennis, in a heartbeat.

I was pulling for Meg Mallon to win the U.S. Women's Open, and she did. I tuned into the Wimbledon women's final expecting to see a Williams sister, and there she was, Serena.

And yet, like any red-blooded, shallow, American male, I could not take my eyes or, um, thoughts, off the player on the other side of the net - Maria Sharapova.

The Wimbledon winner is the Madison Avenue template: a tall, blonde exotic who does more than bounce around in a frilly tennis outfit. This 17-year-old Ruskie can stroke it.

No one knows that more than Serena Williams, who collapsed in a heap against the third-youngest player ever to win Wimbledon.

Conversely, Mallon is the oldest at 41 to ever win a U.S. Women's Open.

That puts her in my favorite bookmarks right there, but somehow I don't think the same is true for all those companies who believe - and it seems they are pathetically right - that we will buy junk from young babes who imply we can sleep with them if we call in our credit card number.

The LPGA needs sex appeal. It's said so itself. Remember the posters that came out a few years ago? Remember Jan Stephenson?

Mallon gives women's golf sentiment, maturity and wisdom. Sharapova gives women's tennis sizzle.

Wisdom and maturity is nice on your mother or your aunt. Sizzle is what you want when you're feeling, well, friendly.

Like race, it's become almost impossible to talk about sex appeal these days without someone becoming righteously indignant. The phrase itself sounds anachronistic.

But, sex appeal is the basis for the survival of the species. Therefore, it' s fair game. There's nothing politically incorrect about the continuation of the human race.

And before we talk about gross inequality, let's remember men's sports aren' t much different. Remember Arnold Palmer, who made women swoon in his heyday, and Broadway Joe Namath?

ESPN/US Weekly even has "sexiest male athlete" lists.

You will see quite a bit of Sharapova, who grew up in the United States, in the days to come. She is already causing male and female fans to swoon. She was besieged by worshipers at London's Savoy Hotel in the wee hours of the morning after her stunning win. She's made the talk show rounds, and reporters are trailing her every move.

She's No. 11 with a bullet on Lycos' Top 50 Web searches, putting her in a league with the Hilton sisters, Britney Spears and other pop icons.

Mallon had a quiet little celebration with friends and family.

After her win, Mallon said: "I'm 41 years old and you've got to enjoy your days and enjoy when things like this happen."

After her win, Sharapova said: "I hope it doesn't change the person I am right now because I really don't want that to happen"

Right, that will never happen. Wisdom and sizzle.

On the one hand, it was nice to see Mallon win in her hometown, with her family around her. She was obviously the crowd favorite.

"I was having a ball with the gallery every hole," Mallon told the press. "They were supportive of me, and kept pushing me on."

And with her mother suffering a brain hemorrhage a few years back, her victory made her even more of a sentimental favorite. But, she isn't exactly the type to send hearts and libidos fluttering.

Would it have been better for the LPGA, business-wise, to have flashy Jennifer Rosales win? Almost certainly.

Women's tennis will get a supernova image boost from Sharapova. You can already see the hackneyed slogans: "From Russia with love."

All in all, it was a feel-good week for women's golf and tennis. And whenever I think of Maria Sharapova, I feel really, really good.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • hello

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  • in response to sharapova pic

    nigel dixon wrote on: Mar 8, 2005



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