Lesbians Turn Out for Ladies Golf Championship
by Steve Sailer
March 26, 2001
During a slow moment at the Ladies Professional Golf Association's Nabisco Championship on Saturday, six women in baggy shorts and golf shirts stood alongside the 15th fairway flipping through the program, looking at pictures of the top women players. The burliest of the women pointed to one player's photo and said, "I've always liked her. Nice smile, nice clean hands, nice diamond jewelry."
"Hey, her diamond ring is on her right hand," exclaimed another woman hopefully. "What does that mean?"
"It means she really loves her diamonds," replied the first woman wryly and wisely.
This LPGA major championship, formerly known as the "Dinah Shore," is one of the more interesting social phenomena around. According to Eliza Atwater of LesbiaNation.com, the tournament is a "lesbian lovefest." Planet Out calls it "the world's largest lesbian circuit party." Tourism promoters say it attracts 15,000 to 20,000 lesbians from across the country to the Palm Springs area each spring.
Despite this reputation, the fans at the tournament are quite genteel, even staid. The crowd is a mix of Palm Springs' many older married couples who play golf together along with short-haired women from across the country, many of whom look like the girl's gym coach from your junior high school. Everyone gets along fine, united by a respect for this humbling game. The elderly gentlemen volunteers who marshal the crowds exchange admiring comments with groups of formidable looking lesbians about Korean star Se Ri Pak's length off the tee.
The LPGA brass, on the other hand, hate any mention of the lesbian turnout at the Nabisco Championship. They've claimed it's just a coincidence that all those lesbians show up in Palm Springs at the same time as their tournament. Indeed, the modest-sized and rather hung-over looking crowds that make it out to the golf course indicate that a lot of the assembled lesbians spend the daylight hours sleeping off the previous night's parties. Still, it's clear that the tournament is the catalyst.
The LPGA could point out, more realistically, that the Nabisco Championship is not representative of their typical tournament. As popular as golf is with many lesbians, few are so dedicated that they'd fly in from around the country to attend, say, the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic in Akron every July.
The three published estimates I've seen of the percentage of LPGA players who are lesbians range from 20% to 30% to an improbable-sounding 50%. In contrast, in the general population, lesbians probably number well under 3%, according to J. Michael Bailey of Northwestern U., the leading demographer of homosexuality.
The marketing problem this presents to the LPGA is not so much that mainstream Americans in the 21st century are repulsed by lesbians as that they just aren't much interested in them. Some heterosexual men cherish erotic fantasies about lesbians, of course, but they'd be quickly disillusioned by a visit to the Nabisco Championship.
The LPGA isn't in dire straits by any means. Annika Sorenstam took home $225,000 for winning the Nabisco. The smooth-swinging Swede is on a hot streak, having won three straight tournaments, one of which included a record setting round of 59. In Sorenstam, the LPGA has a Number One player who is pleasant-looking and married.
Still, Sorenstam's $225,000 pales next to Tiger Woods' $1,080,000 paycheck for winning the rain-delayed Tournament Players Championship on Monday.
Theoretically, the LPGA ought to be able to excite corporate sponsors who want to advertise to that most desirable of all marketing demographics: young working mothers who shop for their families. In fact, they once had the perfect endorser in Nancy Lopez. Now in the twilight of her great career, the lovely Mexican-American could combine victory on the course with being married to 1986 World Series hero Ray Knight and raising her three daughters.
Unfortunately, during a period when Woods is dramatically broadening the fan base of the men's game, women's golf seems to have been losing appeal to young heterosexual American women. So far this year, not a single American-born woman has won an LPGA event. This bodes poorly for the LPGA. Swedes and Koreans simply aren't as interesting to an American audience as American winners, especially part or fully black ones like Woods or Venus and Serena Williams in tennis.
This decline is occurring despite the fact that due to Title IX mandating "gender equity" in college sports, universities are throwing golf scholarships at even mediocre high school girl golfers. If you want your son to win a full ride, he'd better be able to shoot in the low seventies, but your daughter need only shoot in the low eighties.
Part of the problem is that the huge push to get more girls to play more sports is drawing youngsters away from games traditionally open to women, such as golf, and into more energetic sports such as soccer and basketball.
Young girls interested in looking good to boys immediately understand that those running and jumping sports help them lose weight. But walking or riding 18 holes is not at all a sure way to keep the pounds off, as many of the golfers and fans at Nabisco showed.
Still, it's curious that many women who completely disdained golf during their younger years fall in love with it around menopause.
Perhaps it's hormonal. There's a rare but illustrative condition in which pregnant women suddenly become obsessed with golf and other hit-the-ball-with-a-stick sports. During both of my wife's pregnancies with our two sons, she suddenly became fascinated by golf and baseball. We'd joke that her unborn sons' testosterone had taken control of her emotions. Each time, however, as soon as she gave birth and the oxytocin hormone started flowing, her interest in sports evaporated completely. Today, she can't imagine why she wanted to watch golf tournaments on TV while she was pregnant.
How can women's golf regain momentum? Perhaps it can take a lesson from more fashionable games. In recent years, various women's team sports, such as soccer, ice hockey, basketball, and softball, have gotten huge boosts in popularity from the U.S. winning gold medals over foreign teams. These Olympic and World Cup events allow Americans to feel both feminist and patriotic. They allow us to gloat over how much more progressive we Americans are than, say, the Parisians, whose women are so oppressed that they haven't been taught to trade in their high heels for soccer spikes.
Every two years, American and European women golfers team up to compete for the Solheim Cup, the female version of the Ryder Cup. This has yet to attract much attention. Fortunately, the U.S. lost in Scotland in 2000. If the LPGA were to set about whipping up a patriotic-feminist frenzy over the necessity of retaking the Cup in Minnesota in 2002, it just might put women's golf back on the front pages again.