Paula Creamer fighting the good fight for sporting equality

As one of the world’s most popular and accomplished golfers, Paula Creamer is utilizing that status in an effort towards sporting equality. While Augusta National has allowed female members since 2012, chairman Billy Payne has not mentioned the possibility of the LPGA playing there in the near future.

Creamer has come forward with the suggestion that a women’s version of the Masters could follow the week after. While the LPGA boasts five major tournaments, including the US Women’s Open, Women’s PGA Championship, Women’s British Open, ANA Inspiration and the Evian Championship, the prestige of Augusta National could certainly lead to a Women’s Masters.

Sadly, there remains a dinosaur mentality about such a concept. Another site went as far as to state that Billy Payne pays more respect to a dead tree than a women’s tournament. Stating that a very short member season (a duration of only seven months), compounded by the time required for preparation would make it difficult to host another tournament may be perceived as a weak argument. Although Payne has definitely made contributions to the growth of the game in other parts of the world, along with the excellent Drive, Chip and Putt contest, a Women’s Masters would be the moral thing to do.

Creamer also counters Payne’s argument about prep work for the Masters by bringing up the current scenario with Pinehurst No. 2. Of note, the course has hosted the US Open, plus the US Women’s Open in consecutive weeks. Taking into account the success involved with staging consecutive majors, it can be done elsewhere. Perhaps Payne could compromise and make the Women’s Masters a bi-annual event, thus reducing any potential strain that could be caused to Augusta National by having it yearly.

As women’s sports continues to grow, the impact of Augusta would only add to the momentum of the female game. Considering that the Masters always generates high ratings, it would certainly carry over to a women’s edition. The women of the LPGA are doing just as much to generate interest in the game as their counterparts in the PGA.

This is definitely one area where top-ranked members of the PGA could speak up on the topic. For an individual like the legendary Tiger Woods, who was once discriminated against at golf clubs because of his skin color, this should definitely be a cause for him to champion. Even if some are afraid to “rock the boat”, there are enough members of the Senior PGA tour who have done enough for the game, that they can speak without reproach. If Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus supported Creamer, it would carry significant weight.

Although the LPGA could attempt to sway sponsors of the Masters, or even try to lobby the state government of Georgia, the important aspect is that Creamer has gotten the conversation started. Hopefully, it will be a conversation that builds momentum as the day that female golfers can wear the green jacket, the Masters shall truly be an event worthy of prestige.

The Maria Sharapova of women’s hockey

While professional women’s hockey has never marketed the sex appeal of any of its athletes, it is an area that may be forced to acknowledge quickly. 2012 CWHL Draft prospect, Russian national team member, and part time model Zoya Polunina may quickly become the Maria Sharapova of women’s ice hockey.

While it is unfair to single out any one player, Polunina has a modeling background (something that Cassie Campbell, one of the first popular women’s hockey players of the modern era, also had), and male fans are quick to identify the most attractive athletes. Based on the influence of the internet and the sites that are dedicating to featuring the sexiest athletes (male and female) in sports, it is merely a question of time before Polunina is recognized as one of the most attractive ice hockey players in the world. For many male fans, they would state that she definitely follows in the footsteps of fellow Russian athletes Anna Kournikova and Maria Sharapova.

Even in the 1920s, sex appeal played a role in women’s ice hockey. An annual ice hockey tournament in Western Canada in which teams competed to win the Alpine Cup had one of its players win a local beauty contest prior to the tournament.

There have been many amateur women’s hockey groups that have used calendars and sex appeal to gain attention for fund raising efforts. A group of ladies in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (home to some of the greatest winter athletes in North America) have done a calendar which featured nudity. The Ice-o-topes in Vancouver have done a calendar in which the players were in bra and panties while on the ice to help raise funds for charity.

In the budding history of professional women’s ice hockey in North America, there has never been any publicized disruption in the locker rooms of its franchises based on ego and/or popularity. While men’s sports belong to thirty team leagues where one player can easily be shipped elsewhere, women’s ice hockey tends to be a close knit community of very few teams. The moment one team is poisoned over a player’s ego; working relationships among players may be fractured beyond repair.

Eventually, the time will come when an attractive player will manipulate fans and media to increase her popularity; while promoting herself to such a degree that will be beyond anyone’s control. The issue is how an organization would handle it.

A harsh reality in women’s sports is that sex sells with male fans. Athletes such as Danica Patrick, Lindsay Vonn, Lolo Jones, Paula Creamer, Sue Bird, and Hope Solo captured the hearts and minds of male fans with more than their talents. While the astute male sports fan would be quick to acknowledge the hard work and dedication that these athletes have undergone to be the best in their sport, the sex appeal of a female athlete has been a key factor in determining if the more average fan will retain interest.

There is no question that the realm of male sports has had their own athletes create an impact on popular culture (while possibly being labeled as sex symbols). Athletes such as Derek Jeter, Tim Tebow and David Beckham have become icons for their athletic skill, fashion sense, good looks, and overall likeability with fans and media alike. The first star in the CWHL that has truly gained similar status is Tessa Bonhomme.

Although looks may definitely help in attracting fans, talent and character are what will keep the real fans. Tessa Bonhomme has handled her growing popularity and girl next door image with grace and dignity. While more male hockey fans will identify Tessa Bonhomme with Battle of the Blades than her time with Ohio State, the class that she exudes results in popularity which appeals to fans of both sexes, and all age groups. An example for elite athletes to follow.