Sorenstam proves hard work pays
By By BILL CRIST
For the past several months, the golfing world has been embroiled in a publicity flap that it would have surely liked to avoid. A women's group, upset that Augusta National, home of the Masters, has no women members, has been waging a war against the club and tournament in the media, bringing to light the old boys' network that still survives at many private clubs.
More waves will be made this May when LPGA superstar Annika Sorenstam tees it up at the Bank of America Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas. Played in the shadows of Cowtown, the Colonial holds a special place in the heart of many Texans. I've had the privilege to attend as a spectator, worked at one tournament and covered it as a member of the media. Early speculation was confirmed this past week when Sorenstam was extended an invitation to play in the PGA event, an invitation she quickly accepted.
Reaction among her fellow competitors on the ladies' tour, and from their counterparts that play on the PGA Tour has been positive. The course is well suited to her game, they say. Because the layout favors shot-making over being able to boom 300-yard drives, she will not only play as a sideshow, but will be able to compete as a golfer.
And that's as it should be.
There's no doubt that there is inequality in the world we live in. Discrimination still exists, despite all the work that has gone into tearing down the walls we've built around ourselves. The issue did not begin with a golf tournament, or the latest controversy regarding who gets interviewed for head coaching jobs in the NFL. There are still prejudices that remain in our society and we have yet to find the best way to work through and resolve them.
Sorenstam says her playing at the Colonial is not about breaking down any barriers. She claims to not want to be held up as a poster child for equal rights. Rather, the best female golfer on the planet is curious to see how she fares against the best male players. She'll be playing from the same tees as the men, but because the course features many doglegs and narrow fairways, most players don't use a driver off the tee. She'll have the nation's media, and probably a good deal of international coverage, following her every step, something she may not be used to, but something many of her male counterparts deal with regularly.
Basically, though, she'll be competing on a level playing field. Facing the same course, and set of challenges, as every other player in the field. Her success, or failure, will be based on how hard she practices, her expertise as a golfer and more than just a little luck. Those are the same characteristics each of us as humans bring to our own circumstance. Whether it's a job interview, college application or civic club, we cannot offer more than our own experiences will allow. And sometimes we cannot control the selection process; we have to play with the hand we're dealt.
What we can control, in every instance, is what we bring to the table. A good attitude and work ethic, a desire to learn new things, a strong base of knowledge are each important traits and completely within our own reach. Rather than looking for excuses or someone to blame, each of us ought to be looking for ways to challenge ourselves to become better all-around people. We should work hard to get better at that which we want to succeed.
On May 22, the golf world will be focused on the course that Ben Hogan made famous. We'll watch with great interest as the top golfers in the world tee it up. Among that elite group is a player that just happens to be a woman. She may not win the tournament, but through her success has earned the right to compete for the title. That's all Annika is asking for and it should be the same for the rest of us too.