Greg Norman: Women in men's events only marketing ploy


By DENNIS PASSA

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - Enough is enough, says Greg Norman. Let the women play on their golf tour and stay away from men's events. 

"I personally don't think it should happen,'' Norman said Tuesday, adding that the men's tour should change its bylaws if necessary to prevent women from playing. 

"I think the situation is more of a marketing ploy than anything else. If the girls come out and think they can play against the guys and fail every time, that can't be very positive.'' 

Norman, in Melbourne for the Heineken Classic that begins Thursday, was asked to comment on Laura Davies' appearance at next week's ANZ Championship at the Horizons Golf Resort north of Sydney. 

It will mark the first appearance by a female player in an event sanctioned by the European and Australasian tours. 

Michelle Wie, 14, missed the cut by one stroke three weeks ago at the Sony Open. 

Annika Sorenstam became the first woman in 58 years to compete on the U.S. PGA Tour, missing last year's cut by five shots at the Colonial Open. 

Suzy Whaley and Se Ri Pak also played in men's tournaments last year. 

Pak made the cut on a South Korean men's tour event last October at Yongin, where she tied for 10th at the SBS Super Tournament. 

Davies made a previous appearance in a men's tournament at the Korean Open, where she missed the cut. 

Norman said Wie's performance was the most surprising. 

"I'm very impressed with her game, very impressed with her attitude and demeanor at such a young age,'' said Norman.  

"But I think the rightful place is that women play on their tour and we play on ours. 

"It all started with Annika to promote herself and promote women's golf, but at the end of the day, it can be very detrimental.'' 

Norman, who twice won the British Open and was ranked No. 1, said the men's tours may have to change their bylaws to prevent women from getting sponsor's exemptions. 

"I think everyone is just jumping on it, and it's got to stop,'' says Norman. 

"How do we stop it? It's up to our administrators to come up with the wording of our bylaws. 

"The players have got to vote it in on a majority vote. We can't go play on their tour because we're not female, that's the wording they have in their bylaws. I think we should do something about it.'' 

Ernie Els, also entered at Royal Melbourne this week and seeking his third straight win in the Heineken Classic, said eventually men will begin complaining if women get too many sponsor's exemptions. 

"I think there might be quite a few men who might oppose it,'' Els said Tuesday. 

"I'm not quite sure about the future of that - how many girls are going to be good enough to play. We can't keep on giving them invites if there are guys good enough to get sponsor's exemptions'' and don't get them. 

But Els admitted that if men's golf has no bylaws preventing women from playing, and if someone like Wie qualified to play, then they should be allowed on the men's tour. 

"If they go through the tour school, they must be good enough to play,'' said Els. "You've got to give them a chance.'' 

Els said that the issue is getting serious enough that golf tours around the world should come up with a uniform way of dealing with it. 

"I think it's becoming a bit of an issue now,'' said Els. "I think the commissioners will have to start thinking about.'' 

Norman said sponsors on the women's tour are being shortchanged. 

"The other thing that I am very concerned about is in the U.S., there was a major women's sponsor, Corning Ware, sponsoring the tournament opposite the Colonial last year,'' he said. 

"Those people put up millions of dollars to have Annika come there, but that week, they were a non-entity. 

"If I were a sponsor, I'd say, `where is my value? My value is because I want to have Annika play, or Laura Davies, or Michelle Wie.' I feel sorry for those sponsors because they've been very much a dedicated part of women's golf. I just don't think it's right.'' 

Norman isn't sure what he'd do if a woman was in a tournament he was scheduled to play in. 

"That's a good question, it's hard for me to answer that straight off the bat,'' he said."It would depend on what the golf tournament would be. I'd certainly think about it.'' 

U.S. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem addressed the issue Sunday in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the FBR Open. 

"Is it an issue if a 14-year-old gets a sponsor exemption? That's really not an issue,'' Finchem said.  

"The issue is if a tournament gives sponsor exemptions to a player or an individual who is clearly not competitive, just for publicity purposes, that's something we wouldn't care to see. 

"A trend? No. If it happens once in a while, we're not going to get excited. But, you know, Michelle Wie played quite well and, at 14, if she continues to develop, I'm not sure you can make the case that she's not competitive when she misses the cut by a shot.'' - AP

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