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Women's British Open at St. Andrews: Historic golf moment went unseen, unheard on television

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

The first women's professional golf event to be held at the Old Course in St. Andrews, this year's Women's British Open nevertheless got little television coverage. It's time for LPGA Tour Commissioner Carolyn Bivens to start playing hardball with the television networks.

Old Course, St. Andrews, Scotland
The Old Course in St. Andrews hosted this year's Women's British Open but the tournament got little TV coverage.
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Old Course, St. Andrews, ScotlandLPGA Tour Boss Carolyn Bivens
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It's time for LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens to play hardball and get the women a good television contract.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait for the 2007 Women's British Open.

It's scheduled for the first time at the Old Course in St. Andrews. First time those misogynist old Scots have ever let women play in a professional tournament on the hallowed grounds, let alone the LPGA pros.

Will the sour old whiskey-drinkers even let the babes in the clubhouse? Remember, they had a sign outside saying "No dogs or women" allowed. Will that stay up? Will they take out the condom machines?

How will American women adapt to links golf? Will they bitch about it like the American men?

How will Michelle Wie do? Will No. 1-ranked Lorena Ochoa finally win a major?

Such an intriguing story line, with all those intriguing sub-plots, I'm sure we the media will be all over it.

I can't wait ... oh ... this just in. They've already played the tournament.

Yuk, yuk, just my hilarious way of pointing out how little media exposure the tournament - arguably the most historic and certainly one of the most important ever for women's pro golf - received.

I looked for it last Saturday, switching over from the WGC Bridgestone. Caught a little bit of it. Switched over again Sunday, with the men's field wriggling and squirming under the cleated heel of Tiger Woods.

Couldn't find it.

Over.

No replay.

Damn.

Yes, there were some logistical obstacles, the time difference being a big one, but that baby should have been all over the place. Instead, at least here in America, it came and went. Ochoa won, didn't she?

It seems to me LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens needs to recruit a hardball television negotiator for the pink team. Bivens' background is in marketing, and she's been marketing up a storm since she took the women's reins.

The LPGA has all sorts of sexy calendars, and a hip, cool, phat new slogan - "These women Look Good Semi-Nude," I believe - but it has yet to find a consistent home on the tube, and that's the biggest marketing plum of all.

Where the hell are they this week, and at what unearthly time? TNT? The Golf Channel? Lifetime? Sci-Fi Channel? I swear I saw Sherri Steinhauer on a Naked Chef rerun.

The women-at-St. Andrews-fun received less than eight hours of total TV coverage here in the U.S.: TNT showed two hours each day of the first two rounds, and ABC broadcast three and a half hours on the weekend.

Bivens is on record as saying she doesn't want to leave the primary networks, and that might not be such a bad idea. Remember CNBC's disastrous fling with the Champions Tour?

The LPGA is doing all sorts of other things, like buying the Futures Tour and even working with the old-timer ladies. Getting Ricoh as the title sponsor for the British Open was an encouraging move.

Landing St. Andrews as the venue for their version of the British Open - after the men have played their version there 27 times - was a huge deal. The Women's British Open didn't even come into existence until 1976, didn't become an LPGA event until 1994 and wasn't designated a major until 2001.

Playing their most prestigious tournaments on the world golf stage's most venerated venues is a big, big step.

Remember, they'll also be playing the U.S. Women's Open at Pebble Beach in 2014. Maybe Wie will be recovered from her wrist injury by then, though I doubt Natalie Gulbis will still be posing for calendars.

Bivens, who I still believe is one of the worst commissioners in sports history, has played a lot of hardball with the media since coming on board and with her own tournaments - not to mention her own staff.

It's time for her to go Chris Matthews on the TV networks.

Media notes

The LPGA has sometimes griped about its media coverage in the U.S. It's probably singing a different tune now.

The European media had a field day with the Women's British Open, using pretty much every sexist term in the sexist vocabulary.

Even the fairly staid Times of London had a story about lesbianism in the LPGA, citing "anecdotal evidence" that shows 20 percent to 30 percent of LPGA players are gay.

"You will not see cameras lingering on the many groups of women walking hand in hand," Peter Dixon of the Times wrote.

The paper also referred to the Kraft Nabisco in Palm Springs as the "Lesbian Spring Break."

Only after all this did the paper claim racism affects the LPGA more than sexism.

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
  • The Women Playing at St. Andrews

    Jason Tremblay wrote on: Aug 23, 2007

    Thanks for making the point about the lack of TV coverage for LPGA events. With the majors this year going to Ochoa, Pressel,Petterson, and Kerr, who could ask for more? The media ought to realize that women's professional golf should be comanding great (live) tv coverage.
    On our blog--The Timeshare Owners Blog-- we couldn't pass up the opportunity to mention the significance of the women playing their first major at St. Andrews. http://timeshareownersblog.sellmytimesharenow.com/archives/278

    Reply

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