Ever since Nike signed Kelli Kuehne to a $1.3 million
endorsement deal but didn't offer contracts to any LPGA members,
many players on the tour--myself included--have been doing a
slow burn. It's nothing personal against Kelli. She won the last
two U.S. Amateurs, and that's a tremendous accomplishment. But
Kelli, who is 20, can play in only four LPGA events this year
because she is not a member of the tour, and if she doesn't get
through Q school in October, she won't even be on the tour in
1998. Our main complaint is this: Too many companies don't
understand the value of investing in women. The LPGA gets too
little respect from the corporate world, and Nike's decision is
another blatant put-down.
But beyond personal feelings, there's a larger issue. Nearly 25%
of all the money spent on golf merchandise comes out of women's
pockets, yet flip through any golf magazine and you'll notice
darn few LPGA players in the ads. For example, Meg Mallon and I
were on the Wilson staff in 1995 and '96, and not once did they
use us in an advertising campaign. Where's the logic in that?
The equipment companies aren't the only culprits. Too often
network TV covers only our major events. And other media,
including Sports Illustrated, usually send their B-teams--or no
teams--to cover our tournaments. Why? This lack of respect
manifests itself in subtle ways. For instance, last month two
PGA Tour pros and I were at a photo shoot for a swing aid we
endorse. The guys were in a rush, so the photographer shot them
first. Nobody bothered to ask me if I had somewhere to go.
Things like that seem harmless to men, but to women they're hard
Corporate powers must be unaware that we--not just the men on
the PGA and Senior tours--are valuable resources. I don't have
anything against the guys or begrudge them a thing. But it's
time people realize that we have a huge pool of engaging
personalities that is going untapped. We just want to be part of
the picture. It's not about greed. It's about what's right. Give
us the opportunity and we'll deliver.
I want to put out a positive message, and ask only that the
boardrooms of America take another look. I'm not a women's
libber--I love to be treated like a lady. I'm a working woman
who, with my husband, Brian, is raising two children. My hope is
that my girls will be able to walk through life with their heads
held high, proud to be women, and not treated like second-class
Juli Inkster has been a member of the LPGA tour for 15 years.