Friday, June 01, 2007

Writing About Teen Athletes Isn't All Bad

So this week, many members of the mainstream media- Washington Post, Fox News, Chicago Tribune, etc.- took the opportunity to chastise sports blogs for putting a spotlight on Allison Stokke, a world class high school pole vaulter whose pictures of her looking sexy in competition were suddenly all over the internet. Of course the reality is, the only thing blogs did differently than conventional media was picking a sport- track and field- that doesn't usually get much coverage. Had Stokke been an elite tennis player (Sharapova/Kournikova) or golfer (Michelle Wie), then the major sports networks would have already consumed this high school player years ago, capitalizing on both her athletic ability and good looks to improve ratings. Regardless, this week many news outlets derided sports blogs as being nothing more than immature, lecherous, and disrespectful. Granted we may be all of those things, but to imply that we're nothing more than that is just irresponsible. There is much more to the internet community than that. For example:

Yesterday, I was watching the LPGA Ginn Tribute hosted by Annika to leer at 17 year-old Michelle Wie, when I noticed a 15 year-old who was much more compelling.

(Ok, this is off to a bad start. Let's try a more conventional approach.)

Avid golf fans may already know her name, but MacKinzie Kline is still a relative unknown on the LPGA tour. She may only be a 15 year-old amateur, but she has already made sports history. When the Ginn Tribute teed off yesterday, MacKinzie became the first LPGA player to be allowed to use a cart in competition. Born with a congenital birth defect in which her heart has only one ventrical and oxygenated blood flows poorly throughout her body, Kline tires easily. Along with her clubs, she must carry oxygen with her at all times in order to complete her round. Despite her physical limitations, she has excelled in the amateur ranks, and last year was the top ranked 14 year-old golfer in the world according to GolfWeek.

For the last five years, MacKinzie has been a national spokesperson for the Childrens Heart Foundation, an organization which funds research and raises awareness in the battle against congenital heart defects. Her goal is to raise one million dollars by the end of 2007 and she is currently three-fourths of the way there. She is hoping to secure a contribution from the Ginn Tribute (hosted by Annika Sorenstam, who herself is an ambassador for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and has already named that charity as one of the benefactors of the tournament). (The tournament also has a $2.6 million purse, so the golfers themselves have plenty to gain as well.)

MacKinzie Kline was noticeably nervous at the beginning of her round yesterday and had early struggles. By the end of the day, she found herself in last place, at +14. But Kline was able to accomplish something that Michelle Wie wasn't. She finished her round. In doing so, she showed everyone that she has the heart of a champion.

For more stories on MacKinzie Kline, check out:
USA Today
San Diego Union

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