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‘Hurts Our Game’: Ignorance Pushes Nelly Korda to Beg for Recognition as Caitlin Clark Towers Over LPGA

Published 04/16/2024, 10:56 PM EDT

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It would seem there is no better time to be in women’s sports. The interest has grown, as has the money at stake. Caitlin Clark’s WNBA draft just set another viewership record for ESPN. Meanwhile, the LPGA Tour is the fourth most-watched show on the Golf Channel, per USTVDB. That’s despite Nelly Korda, the Tour’s biggest name, clinching four titles in a row. At least two programs other than the PGA Tour event are ahead of the LPGA Tour. 

It’s not a very prospective scenario when you’re heading to the first major of the season, hoping to score five straight victories for the first time since 1978. Will it lift the Tour out of the abyss of TV ratings? Only when they are afforded the proper stage is the world No. 1 forthright. 

Nelly Korda calls out the coverage snub

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LPGA pros need a bigger stage to showcase their powerhouse of talents. Not on tape delay but live, as things are happening. “I feel like we just need a stage. We need to be put on TV. I feel like when it’s tape delay or anything like that, that hurts our game. Women’s sports just needs a stage. If we have a stage, we can show up and perform and show people what we’re all about.

It’s not hard to understand where Korda is coming from. The LPGA Tour and women’s golf in general have received backhanded treatment. In fact, Korda’s fourth victory at the T-Mobile Match Play was snubbed in favor of the PGA Tour Champions. Only the last few holes were broadcast. Even last year, the QBE Shootout was preferred instead of the US Women’s Open.

With tee times moved up today due to weather, couldn’t the [QBE Shootout’s] 4 hours of live coverage gone tape delayed and the last major of the year be televised live?” Karrie Webb, a Hall of Famer, tweeted at the time. Marina Alex, a two-time winner on the LPGA Tour, lamented, “How do we grow the game when we can’t be seen?

A similar question was posed to Fred Ridley, the Augusta National Chairman, last week. Ridley, who has joined the bandwagon of Caitlin Clark fans, said that golf needs “unicorns” like the Iowa star. Korda, arguably the biggest draw on the LPGA Tour, is undoubtedly one such player. But the 12-time LPGA Tour winner is not stressed about that. Not a bit.

For Korda, history is no burden

When Nancy Lopez concluded her historic run, she was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The next morning, people saw her face on the New York Times front page. Lopez was a sensation, even after reaching the pinnacle. 

The Ladies’ Professional Golf Association seems to be divided into two distinct groups these days. First there is the Nancy Lopez Division, which consists solely of the sensational 21-year-old rookie. Then there are all the other L.P.G.A. members in the other division,” wrote Gordon S. White Jr. in The New York Times in June 1978.

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It’s safe to say that there hasn’t been coverage of any LPGA Tour Pro since then that matches the hype around Nancy Lopez. Korda admits that everything is about results. And a fifth victory can catapult the 25-year-old and the Tour she plays to new heights. Notably, Annika Sorenstam, too, concluded her historic 5-in-a-row at Chevron, then known as the Kraft Nabisco Championship. But historic significance is not a burden, she emphasized. 

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“Obviously, with the run I’ve been on, maybe there are more eyes on me, but I always am very grateful for this because I know how fast something can be taken away from you. So I hope that people see who I am—my true self—and that inspires them, too,” Nelly Korda said in the pre-tournament press conference.

The 25-year-old doesn’t think she alone can lift the Tour to a new pedestal. The stage needs to be set. Only then can she and her colleagues elevate the LPGA Tour. The good news is that they’ll have that stage on ESPN this year.

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Written by:

Parnab Bhattacharya

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One take at a time

Parnab Bhattacharya is a Beat Writer at EssentiallySports in the Golf Division. With four years of writing experience, he is now exploring his deep-rooted love for the gentleman’s sport. Parnab's area of expertise is his predictive and perspective pieces, where he explores all things golf, diving deep into the whys and whats behind players' and Tours' moves in the sport, and unflinchingly voicing his take.
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Edited by:

Sheldon Pereira

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