Big Idea… But Not The Right Idea
By Jim McNaney
It’s Cup Season in professional golf. The Ryder Cup is right around the corner and the Solheim Cup just finished up. Is there a more exciting time of year on the golf calendar?
Sure, The Masters is highly anticipated, but we only get to see these Cup matches every other year. It’s the only time we get to chant “USA, USA, USA” for both the men and women.
The hoopla around this year’s events was only heightened by the fact that the Ryder Cup was delayed a year. That excitement, coupled with the most watched Solheim Cup in the history of the event, prompted some in the golf industry to call for both matches to be contested simultaneously at the same venue. The thought is there would be more matches going on at once so more action to follow as well as more spectators for the away teams, not to mention more spectators witnessing the spectacular play of the women.
Proponents of joint events also point out that tennis conducts all their majors at the same time and in the same venues. They say that the women’s game garners more attention in those weeks than any other. On the surface it sounds like a reasonable idea but it’s not.
Forget the fact that the events are run by four different organizations and not the same association as is the case with tennis. Tennis majors are also played at the same venues every year.
Forget the fact that historically the Solheim Cup takes place on the opposite year of the Ryder Cup specifically to allow dedicated media attention to women’s golf.
Forget the fact that each event requires tons of planning and totally ignores the fact that many of us LIKE two events, so we have two weekends to look forward to.
Other than that…
I will concede that there should be a way to get more golf fans behind the women’s game, but I do not believe that the women NEED the men to garner that attention. In fact, I believe that joint matches might hurt the women’s matches.
The women deserve to have their own day in the sun. It is nice to see PGA TOUR players getting behind the Solheim Cup. I was impressed with Bubba Watson’s involvement this year in Cleveland. I know the U.S. LPGA players fully support the men during the Ryder Cup (several have been in the crowd in the past). That type of involvement would advance both matches far better that conducting them simultaneously.
With all that said, I do think that maybe conducting the Cup Matches on the same venue over consecutive weeks might make a difference. The USGA tried that for the Men’s and Women’s Opens several years ago at Pinehurst. Other than a few comments about course conditions not being up to par for the Women’s Open, overall, the concept was met with applause.
Given that both matches have far fewer players than a normal tournament, course conditions would not be an issue. Infrastructure needs to be created at both matches so having them on one venue would eliminate a ton of costs. Media would save money as well by not having to move their set-ups to multiple locations.
Watching the women play the same course as the men under the same competitive stress would better showcase how good the women’s game really is.
I can imagine a scenario where the Ryder Cup and the Solheim Cup rotate which matches go first. Or maybe the home captains get to pick which plays first? Think of it as another strategy to get the crowds really behind your team.
I can also imagine the teams that are playing in the second matches arriving on-site early to not only cheer on their teammates, but also seeing how the course is playing. Hopefully, the teams that compete first stick around to support the other gender.
Think about how great it would be to see the U.S. Men’s team, after securing the Ryder Cup the previous Sunday, jumping up and down around the 18th green as someone like Nelly Korda sinks the Solheim Cup winning putt!
THAT would be great for the game!
As the father of two daughters, I applaud anyone that suggests ways to bring more attention to women’s golf (or all women’s sports for that matter). Ideas like joint matches spearhead conversations to arrive at the best ideas. I just believe that allowing both the men and women to shine under their own spotlight is a better way to go.
In the end, I enjoyed rooting for the U.S. in the Solheim Cup. Now I get another week to chant, “USA, USA, USA!”