Golf Digest WomanAugust 13, 2009

Olympics = Enormous Opportunity For LPGA

The IOC's August 13 recommendation to admit golf as one of two new sports for the 2016 Olympic Games will completely change the global golf landscape. There's no doubt about it: once golf becomes an Olympic sport (a final vote is due October 9, but after this morning's endorsement, it's a mere formality), its participation numbers will explode, the governments of non-golfing nations big and small will begin to fund junior programs and build golf courses, and nothing about the game will ever be the same. In a great way.

As much as Olympic exposure will help golf in general, it will make a world of difference for women's golf in particular. The LPGA Tour is already an international tour, with the best female players in the world fighting exciting battles week in and week out. It's a tour that's full of hair-raising personalities and staggering talent, yet it's still struggling to gain the popularity and support it deserves from television viewers and sponsors. The players' skills are often wildly underappreciated, and LPGA telecasts relegated to post-PGA tape-delayed time slots. [#image: /photos/55ad91efb01eefe207f760c5]|||GDWblogPettersen.jpg||| "For me, it's a dream to represent Norway in the Olympics," says Norwegian LPGA star Suzann Pettersen. "Golf is about respect, partnership and sportsmanship -- true Olympic values that will fit with what the LPGA and the game stand for."

Global exposure during the Olympic Games should change this drastically. It's a known fact that the Olympics make people across the world watch sports they would never otherwise consider. (I'm sure I'm not the only one who've found myself glued to Olympic fencing, speed walking and shot-put qualifiers without so much as a thought to changing the channel.) The Games have an indisputable magic, and they're certain to sprinkle fairy dust over women's golf in the eyes of even the most chauvinistic, naysaying holdouts. Because once people actually sit down to watch these girls play, they'll be hooked. The LPGA just needs a chance to prove itself and get out from under the stigma of relative incompetence. And the Olympic Games are just the thing to give them that chance.

--Stina Sternberg (Photo: Jonathan Ferry, Getty Images)