It is both disappointing and exciting that the biggest news in the world of sports over the last week has been Annika Sorenstam.
Exciting because it shows that people have an active interest in female athletes. Disappointing because, if we have come so far since the feminist movement of the 1960s, there shouldn’t be this much uproar over a woman playing in a PGA Tour event.
Sorenstam proved to all the critics that she could hold her own against some of the best male golfers in the world, even if she didn’t make the cut on Friday afternoon. She showed the boys of the golfing community that she could not only play well, but play more accurately and precisely than most of them.
Sorenstam’s controversial participation in the Colonial did not set a record and did not really change anything for female athletes. However, it was a shot in the arm to those in the sporting world who believe that female athletes will be accepted in whatever venue and whatever sport they choose. Sorenstam also changed the minds of those sexist men in the golfing community who thought she would succumb to the pressures placed on her by the media and the golfing community.
So she didn’t advance to the final rounds on Saturday and Sunday, so what? This last week has shown that while a female athlete may be scoffed at by other male athletes, sporting fans will embrace her. She drew more attention and public support than would have been expected based upon the reception she received from players within the PGA.
Some in the golfing community would say her performance showed that women aren’t ready to be part of the PGA. Well, if the LPGA made its courses equivalent in length and difficulty to those used by the PGA, then those critics would have a valid point. Sorenstam played on a course that is nearly 700 yards longer than the average course on the LPGA, which shows that no matter what situation you put her in, she is going to perform well.
But whether she performed well or not is not the issue; she performed better than anyone, including Las Vegas bookies, expected her to perform. Did her performance prove anything? She proved to the golfing community that under intense pressure, she can compete with style and grace and can still beat 11 of the tour’s best male athletes.
It is definitely sad that a woman has not played in a PGA Tour event in 58 years, but in those 58 years, the media and the fans have learned to love and appreciate female athletes. Those good ol’ boys in the golfing community may have been critical and skeptical, but she showed them that the only reason they were skeptical was because they were scared of being beaten by a girl.