Brittney Griner is already making waves in the WNBA. But her emergence as a national superstar has once again brought the topic of women in sports to light—more specifically, women taking part in sports leagues that are currently occupied entirely by men.
It is a subject that has been discussed at great length in many sports, but possibly none more so than professional golf. Because of the physical nature of a game like basketball, it’s hard to envision women making a large impact in a professional men’s league. Golf, however, is a far more personal game, and it is conceivable that a woman might be able to break onto the men’s circuit.
In fact, some women already have.
In 2003, Annika Sorenstam became the first woman to play in a PGA Tour event since 1945, and the first in the modern era. However, despite this ground-breaking moment, she was unable to make the cut, and never attempted it again.
Since then, there have been glimpses of hope for female golfers wanting to make it in the men’s game. A few years ago, it seemed as though Michelle Wie would become the woman to finally stamp her name on the men’s tour. And in 2006, she made the cut for the Asian Tour SK Telecom Open. However, that was the only time in 13 attempts that the American has made the cut.
So will a woman ever truly make her mark on the men’s tour? Will a woman ever win a men’s tournament—and more importantly—can a woman win a men’s tournament?
Unfortunately, so far it seems that the answer to that question is probably no.
Despite the personal, non-contact nature of the sport of golf, it is still a physical sport. The men’s fairways are longer, and any women who hope to make it on the men’s tour will have to compete with men who can often generate much more power with their shots.
That being said, take the example of Guan Tianlang. The young Chinese golfer made the cut at this year’s Masters at just 14 years old, becoming the youngest to ever make the cut at Augusta. At 5’9” and 145 pounds, he’s not much bigger than the average female.
The key point, however, is that making the cut and actually winning a tournament are very different things, and the latter is considerably more difficult.
And then we have the other dilemma—would women even want to compete in the men’s tour? Wouldn’t it appear better for the women’s game to have gifted golfers playing in the LPGA, rather than struggling to be noticed in the men’s game? Brittney Griner is certainly bringing more attention to the WNBA, and think about what players like Venus and Serena Williams have done for women’s tennis.
Players such as Stacy Lewis and Michelle Wie (she’s only 23, after all) could mount, perhaps, the best challenge for a men’s title, but until we see a golfer have continued success in men’s tournaments, it’s hard to envision a truly integrated tour.
So perhaps a woman might never truly break into the men’s circuit, but perhaps the real question should be, is that such a bad thing?
VIDEO: Annika Sorenstam reflects on her experience with the PGA Tour