Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Sorenstam can make a statement by not playing Colonial



By C. JEMAL HORTON
The Indianapolis Star

When news broke recently of LPGA star Annika Sorenstam's intention to play in a PGA event, my initial thought was this: God, please let Sorenstam play so well in the Colonial Invitational that she sends the chauvinist oinks squealing to their troughs to eat crow - or worse.

Now, though, I am just hoping Sorenstam pulls out of the Colonial.

I am hoping Sorenstam chooses not to buy into this manufactured and preposterous need to validate herself - or her gender - through sport.

Sorenstam's ability to play golf at the highest level in the world - presumably the PGA - shouldn't be about the chauvinist oinks. It shouldn't be about the people who feel she cannot or should not do it.

There absolutely is no reason for Sorenstam, nor any other woman, to allow a group of elitist, threatened boys to be the arbiters of validation.

"I'm doing this totally because this is a test for me," Sorenstam said during a teleconference. "I'm not carrying the LPGA on my shoulders by any means."

She is almost correct; Sorenstam isn't carrying the LPGA on her shoulders. She is carrying women's sports, as a whole, on her shoulders.

For Sorenstam to travel to Texas in May and play in the Colonial, it would be a step back for women and sports. A tragic step back.

There is a faction of males that still wonders out loud if legendary University of Tennessee women's coach Pat Summitt would be as successful if she coached men. That same faction also yaps about how Summitt should take over the Tennessee men's program one day.

Here's my question, though: Why?

Let's see, Summitt makes more money than the men's basketball coach at Tennessee. The breadth of her knowledge of the game is unchallenged by anyone. She routinely out-prepares, out-strategizes and out-coaches her male counterparts in the women's game.

Thank goodness Summitt has not succumbed to such foolishness and tried to coach men merely to justify her position as one of the game's best coaches ever.

Besides, I'm still not certain if saying Summitt should coach men actually is a compliment.

That's what people such as Sorenstam have to remember. When people come up and tell a woman, "You know, you should play against the men," they're not really saying, "You're so good, you could beat the men."

In reality, they're saying, "I'll bet all this dominance stops once you go against some real competition, like the men."

Sorenstam, who has done as much as anyone in history to lift the women's game in her nine years as a pro, has to be strong enough to recognize that.

Even more, she has to be strong enough to not become some laboratory test rat for people who already don't think much of the demographic she represents in her sport.

Who cares if she finishes in the top 10 at the Colonial? Will she be considered better than Tiger? Phil Mickelson? No.

Remember when Billie Jean King vanquished an aging Bobby Riggs in 1973? Do you also remember that King's victory did little for the credibility of women's tennis at the time? King had beaten a 55-year-old retiree, not an active champion, like Arthur Ashe.

Women players ultimately gave women's tennis the credibility it now enjoys. Sorenstam has the power to do that for women's golf, along with Karrie Webb, Meg Mallon and 13-year-old Michelle Wie.

People want to say the best women's player can't beat the best men's players? Whatever. No need to play this silly game and try to prove them wrong.

Sorenstam still can make a powerful statement about the credibility of the women's game. By choosing not to play the Colonial.




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Sorenstam can make a statement by not playing Colonial

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PLAN YOUR DAY
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