Wednesday, January 23, 2013

You've Come a Long Way, Baby

The women on the LPGA Tour of 2013 will play for sums of money unimagined just 30 years ago. As recently as the late 1970s, an LPGA Tour golfer finishing outside the Top 10 on the money list might have to take a second job during the offseason.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same. The LPGA still struggles with image, and particularly with the question: should we sell the looks of our players? Or at least the hot ones?

If you've been paying attention to the way the Tour markets Natalie Gulbis, among others, you know the answer right now is yes.

I was thinking of these things recently as I flipped through the 1974 LPGA Tour media guide. Because as obviously as the Tour sells image today, that's nothing compared to the way the Tour was trying to sell appearance 30 years ago.

For example, the 1974 media guide includes such snippets about players as this:

• Sharron Moran: "Favorite among girl-watchers, with a collection of fancy hats for her flowing blonde hair."

Well, alrightie then. But don't get the idea Sharon was the only chapeau icon:

• Chris Repasky: "A leader in the sharp dressing department, especially with some hats with flair."

Hats with flair will still get you a long way in golf (Michelle McGann, Shingo Katayama). But we're not sure what to make of this media guide blurb:

• Pam Barnett: "Noted for her wigs, and who can ever forget Pam in her excitement in winning the Southgate three years ago flinging her wig into the air as her winning putt holed out?"

That's one way to celebrate a win. I'm just happy Jim Furyk doesn't wear a toupee.

Pointing out the attractiveness of golfers is nothing new, and nothing unusual for fans. There's an entire blog dedicated to it (Golf Babes), and right here at GSB* we use the labels "golf hotties" and "booty" on some posts. But it did strike me as unusual that the Tour's official media guide would be the place to find such descriptions as these:

• Joyce Benson: "One of the very best for 'girl-watchers' ... Quite photogenic." I guess that's 1974-speak for "babe alert!"

• Jocelyne Bourassa: "... sexy French accent ..."

• Robyn Dummett: "A pert blonde, another of the 'lookers' on Tour."

• Marlene Hagge: "A pacesetter in fashion, All-American in best-dressed, eye-catching ..."

• Pam Higgins: "Eye-catching blonde ..."

If the 2013 LPGA media guide were written this way, we might read this:

• Natalie Gulbis: "Favorite with the girl-watchers ... Eye-catching blonde ... Has one win on tour, plus a hot bod."

That 1974 media guide was certainly fun to read through. There were some other odd word choices, too. Such as:

• Renee Powell: "Only regular black golfer on Tour." Well, that's one more black golfer - regular, irregular or otherwise - than is on Tour today.

• XXXXXXX: "Roommate and traveling companion of XXXXXXX." Um, I think they just outed her. The second one mentioned is openly gay (today), the first one I don't believe is out. So I'm not identifying either. But aren't you wistful for the naivete that lets something like this get into a media guide?

And then there are the snippets that tell you how (comparitively) little money was at stake for women golfers in the early to mid-1970s:

• Kathy Martin: "Works for telephone answering service when not golfing." She was 59th on the money list, which was good for less than $2,000.

• Etsuko Nakamura: "Works in a soy sauce factory in her homeland."

So, Michelle Wie, just be happy that when your summer season is over this year, you don't have to go home to the pineapple fields. Oh, and nice hat.

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