Monday, July 17, 2006

Just One Stroke Away

It's the morning after the Jamie Farr Classic, and LPGA officials have to shaking their heads wondering what might have been. For the first half of the final round, it appeared that Natalie Gulbis was in a zone and headed to her first LPGA win. With her in the lead, ESPN's cameras followed Gulbis on every walk up the fairway- and what great camerwork it was. The savvy cameraman stayed on her side and used a low angle which, when combined with Gulbis' bouncing step and excellent posture, did an exceptional job of accentuating her "assets." If Gulbis was able to hold on to the victory, the clip of her walking up to the final tee would be played on sports segments everywhere; and people (i.e. horny men) that normally don't watch women's golf would suddenly take notice.

The LPGA knows that it has some stigmas that need to be dissolved if it's going to increase its popularity among sports viewers. Accurate or not, women's golf has had the perception of being a game filled with women that would be more comfortable at a biker bar than a clubhouse. However, as golf has become more popular of a recreation nationwide, there has been a greater influx of young, fit, body-conscious women into the sport. While there are still a few holdovers from the old breed (sorry Laura Davies), the tour now includes women such as Gulbis, Erica Blasberg, Catherine Cartwright, Kim Hall, Sarah Jane Kenyon, May Wood, Nicole Perrot, Carin Koch, Teresa Lu, Jill McGill, Paula Creamer, Grace Park, and of course, Michelle Wie. These are the new faces of the LPGA.

The LPGA knows that they need to capitalize on these young women too. This is acknowledged in their latest ad campaign: "These Girls Rock." Ladies' golf has the opportunity to fill a similar niche that women's tennis does- competitive action among young women being ogled by men 20+ years their senior. Creepy? Sure. But the ratings will be there. During these lazy days of summer with only midseason baseball and men's golf as competition, there is a void in sports programming. Whose bouncing breasts would you rather see- Natalie Gulbis or Phil Mickelson? In a recent article, Bill Simmons mentioned that one aspect that he likes about watching soccer on tv is that it doesn't require your undivided attention. The announcer's voice will let you know when there is some action on the horizon. Similarly, golf is a great "background sport," in which you can go about other business until you hear the announcer whisper something along the lines of "Here's Gulbis approaching the tee." Then you watch her swing and walk up the fairway, then go back to whatever it is you were doing.

But for all of this to happen, the tour first needs one of these women to actually win an event. Granted Paula Creamer has some wins and Grace Park was good in 2004, but these two are really more of supporting players in this new marketing strategy. What the tour really needs is a tournament where Michelle Wie and Natalie Gulbis are battling Annika Sorenstam for the title so there will be a symbolic changing of the guard. Then the LPGA will be able to go full force with their ad campaigns with Gulbis, Wie, and the other young ladies being fully featured, up close and personal. They also need to slightly modify the way tournaments are presented. One thing golf could do is increase their coverage of some of the "up and coming" rookies during the early rounds rather than focus on old standbys like Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb. But first and foremost, they must add more cameras to the coverage to allow for more closeup shots (just think about all the closeups of Sharapova's scowl that NBC uses during its tennis coverage.) Sure the Sanyo blimp cam is fine when Lorena Ochoa has her driver, but there really aren't enough tight shots of the competitors' expressions. There needs to be more personality within the presentation. Once this campaign takes hold and increases the viewership of LPGA events, this will have the added effect of encouraging Michelle Wie to relinquish her pursuit of making the cut in a men's event and instead participate in more LPGA tournaments further increasing the media coverage of the tour.

But first, Gulbis or Wie must win an event. It almost happened yesterday. But instead, it was Mi Hyun Kim who held up the trophy and made the tournament just an afterthought in the sporting world. But eventually, it's going to happen- and I'll have the Tivo ready when it does.


At Mon Jul 17, 12:02:00 PM PDT , Anonymous Adam said...

So hot...yet her looks alone can't win her the big one. But she does have talent, unlike Kournikova.

At Mon Jul 17, 01:22:00 PM PDT , Anonymous Rich said... LPGA golfer that I wouldn't mind being a lesbian.

At Fri Aug 09, 06:39:00 PM PDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn, I love Gulbis. She's so damn hot....just one night, please.


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