Jewish World Review May 22, 2003 /20 Iyar, 5763

Tresa McBee

Tresa McBee
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The new Babe: Where are the advocates now? | Martha? Martha Burk? Have you heard? One of the gals will play with the boys. The Big Boys.

You have heard, right? You pay attention to such things, don't you? 'Cause women and golf — they're like peas in a pod to you, aren't they? Two things that go together like white on rice, as a friend of mine likes to say. She's not very interested in where or with whom women play golf, but you sure are.

Aren't you? Because with Annika Sorenstam — just about the best female golfer on our side of the tee right now — getting ready to play in the usually all-male PGA this week, I thought you'd be all over the place with praise for the Bank of America Colonial Classic in Fort Worth, Texas. After all, Sorenstam is a woman playing against men. By herself. When she tees off Thursday at the Colonial, Sorenstam will be the first women to play a PGA Tour event since Babe Didrikson Zaharias crossed gender lines in 1945.

So ... that's a big deal, isn't it? Weaving women into the tightly woven fabric of male-dominated sports is part of your goal as chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations, right? Or maybe it's just admittance into the clubbiest of clubs, the private, all-male Augusta National Golf Club. There was that military angle, if I recall. Something about it being an offense to American servicewomen when they lay down their lives for democracy but can't golf at Augusta. "Appalling," I believe you said. An "insult."

OK. So Sorenstam isn't laying down her life or trying to alter admittance policies of some wealthy private club that most folks could care less about, but she's sure making news about women and their role in sports. That's good, right? She's definitely carved a place for herself on the LPGA Tour. Since her first victory in the 1995 U.S. Women's Open, the reserved 32-year-old Swede has won more than 40 LPGA tournaments, almost half since the beginning of 2001. She's one competitiv e gal.Ivan Maisel of ESPN reports that Sorenstam and herhusband stopped playing chess forseveral years after she threw a game piece against the wall in anger.

It's that driving spirit and willingness to confront intense media attention as well as some guys who get testy by the thought of a woman on their slicker greens — Vijay Singh swears he was taken out of context when he said he hoped Sorenstam wouldn't make the cut — that made me think the National Council of Women's Organizations would at least give Sorenstam a mention on its Web site.

After all, the three items about Augusta and the already played Masters — one item is even an Action Alert! — are still on the organization's site, complete with a link to NCWO's very own separate site dedicated to listing corporations that "sanction sex discrimination" at Augusta. It's the same site that awards NCWO's first Hypocrisy Gold Medal to the PGA Tour.

That's the same PGA Tour whose commissioner Tim Finchem recently said he understood that Sorenstam simply wants to see how her game compares to the best male players in the world. And if Sorenstam got an exemption to participate in the Colonial — which she did and which male players of varying skill regularly receive — Finchem said everybody should chill out and enjoy watching events unfold.

Surely that counts for something. The head guy of the PGA — which is all male but doesn't specifically exclude women the way the LPGA does men — appears to support Sorenstam, and the golfer herself is sticking to her plan to play the Colonial despite major media scrutiny that she admits she didn't anticipate. To be honest, I expected some statement of support from you, Martha, and the NCWO.

Oh, sure, Colonial is enjoying the attention and increased exposure, whereas Augusta prefers a lower profile in the way old money abhors publicity. And Colonial doesn't scream discrimination with all its unpleasantness.

But shouldn't pro-women women be all over this one anyway, even if it's just a few words of encouragement for Sorenstam and even fewer words of praise for the men who've said, it's cool, go ahead, we're not afraid of being called girly men by getting out there with a woman? Even some comment like, see, Augusta, the world won't end if the girls come to play? Something like that?

Martha? Martha? Are you there?

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JWR contributor Tresa McBee is a columnist for the Northwest Arkansas Times. Comment by clicking here.

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08/22/02: Egypt and Saudi Arabia: Curious inconsistencies
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08/08/02: Why women will remain the at-risk gender
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