Bob Harig

SPORT SECTIONS
Wednesday, May 21, 2003
All the fussing over Annika's spot is just plain silly




FORT WORTH, Tex. -- Men everywhere must simply be tired of it all. Tired of getting passed over for jobs. Tired of being paid less than their female counterparts. Tired of never getting a fair shake when it comes to the other sex. How else do you explain it?

Does anyone really believe that Sorenstam's entry in the Colonial is going to change the face of the PGA Tour? Will there suddenly be an onslaught of women who think they can play with men?

We're talking about Annika Sorenstam, the best female golfer in the world, getting a chance to play in the PGA Tour's Colonial this week. Just one more injustice for the male populace, apparently.

This is silly.

Not Annika getting to play with the men.

No, what's sad is all the fussing about it.

What is the big deal? The No. 1 female golfer wants to test herself on the ultimate stage, and the Bank of America Colonial gave her that opportunity. Good for her. Good for them. Too bad for everyone else who wants to make it into something more.

Let's start with a majority of golf fans. Most opinion polls out there show that the preference would be to keep Annika in the kitchen, er, on the LPGA Tour. The biggest reason cited? "Men can't play the women's tour, so women shouldn't be allowed to play the men's tour.'' How absurd.

Forget for a moment that the LPGA Tour has a gender rule, while the PGA Tour does not. Who in their right mind would want to watch men play in a women's league? What is the intrigue in that?

For physiological reasons, which should be obvious to anyone who can read, there would be no women's sports leagues if men were allowed to play in them. That's the point. Men, in general, are better than women at sports. They are bigger, stronger. They have too many advantages. That is why women's sports were developed, to give them a chance.

Now, in a few rare instances, there might be the extraordinary female athlete who is able to compete with men. And what better sport than golf, where the individual game allows a player to take on the course without having to engage in physical contact with the opponent? If a woman can stand on the back tee and shoot the scores, more power to her.

Does anyone really believe that Sorenstam's entry in the Colonial is going to change the face of the PGA Tour? Will there suddenly be an onslaught of women who think they can play with men?

Yes, we will see others try. Michele Wie, 13, will play in a Nationwide Tour event this summer. She tried to qualify for the Sony Open in Hawaii earlier this year. She has said she wants to play in The Masters. If she is able to make it, what is the harm?

Two other hollow arguments have been put forth as to why Sorenstam should not play at Colonial: she didn't qualify, and she is taking a spot from someone else who could be in the field.

First, Colonial is an invitational. It has just 114 players, and there is no qualifier to get in. As for taking a spot in the field? Sorenstam is one of 12 sponsor exemptions to Colonial. The whole point of a sponsor exemption is to give a spot to someone who otherwise could not get into the tournament.

They are often given to players with less credentials than Sorenstam. Sometimes they go to a local club pro who has no chance. Or maybe to a hotshot amateur. Aren't they taking spots from someone more deserving?

Three weeks ago, Jack Nicklaus and his four sons were given spots in a Nationwide Tour event. Nicklaus is 63, and Gary Nicklaus is the only legitimate pro among his sons. Wasn't there somebody more deserving, a guy down on his luck who could have used those places? Sure. But the Golden Bear and his sons created a buzz for the tournament, which is exactly what the sponsor wanted.

Could you imagine so much discussion about the Colonial this week if Bank of America had given Sorenstam's invitation to someone such as Scott Simpson or Joey Sindelar, who also got sponsor exemptions? It would be another ho-hum week on the PGA Tour, another tournament. Instead, this has been a home run for the Colonial, and it is not just the biggest story in golf, it is one of the biggest in sports.

Face it, this is far better for the game than the membership issue at Augusta National that plagued the sport heading into The Masters. Which brings up another interesting point.

So many who sided with Augusta National in that debate said the club should be allowed to choose whom it wants.

Well, the Colonial has the right to choose whom it wants with its sponsor picks.

And lest any whiny PGA Tour players forget, these sponsors have made them rich. Colonial will help put some $24 million in PGA Tour players' pockets over the next four years. They don't do so out of the goodness of their hearts. They expect to call some attention to their products, services or companies. Bank of America officials look like geniuses now.

We're talking about one woman taking one spot in one PGA Tour event. Let's see how she does and enjoy it.

Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times, and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at harig@sptimes.com


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