LPGA: Is Being #1 Worthwhile?
This past weekend, LPGA superstar hopeful Michelle Wie won her second event as a professional by capturing the title in Winnipeg. Long seen as a potential "Face of the LPGA", Wie has finally started to play up to her (hype) potential as of late ever since a strong showing at the Solheim Cup last year.
This LPGA season, much like the PGA Tour, has seen its fair share of new faces in the winner's circle. In addition, solid talent like Christie Kerr, Paula Creamer, and Wie continue their quest to become annual winners and help drive more interest to the Tour. LPGA stars have also taken a fan-friendly approach to driving home their success to new fans, making themselves more available than ever in terms of Twitter use, event appearances, and an overall transperacy to the public.
However, the following question continues to come up in the mind of any golf fan who has watched the evolution of the LPGA over the years: why do the top players continue to leave?
True, we have a very limited sample size to discuss this phenomenon, however two of the biggest stories in recent memory for the LPGA have involved the Tour's top player retiring from a game she was currently conquering on an annual basis. Annika Sorenstam was the face of the LPGA for years, winning multiple times during a season and often by a large margin. When deciding to leave the game to pursue other endeavors (including a family), Sorenstam was still playing at a very high level and was arguably the best player, even then.
Fast forward to Lorena Ochoa, the World #1 following Sorenstam's departure. Ochoa appeared to be even more dominant on Tour, winning tournaments by insane margins and at an impressive frequency, both in the US and overseas. Armed with youth and one heck of a game, Ochoa was prepped to not only top Sorenstam's legacy as the best professional women's golfer ever, but to take down a few records in the process. In a shocking move, however, Ochoa soon announced her own retirement from the game (while still in her 20's, to boot), again citing her desire to start a family and focus on other business areas.
One cannot help but wonder if this trend will continue in the LPGA, regardless of who takes over the #1 spot for any length of time. Young talent on the Tour is more recognizable now than ever before, and the LPGA finally has a legitimate chance at young talent-marketability only previously seen on the PGA.
Will the desire to dominate the LPGA Tour ever get past the social pressures experienced by women, especially those who wish to start a family? Can fans of the LPGA expect to have their "face of the sport" any time soon, considering what a female golfer will need to presumably sacrifice in order to do so?