I was very sad to learn that Louise Suggs passed away on Friday. I’ve been a fan of the LPGA since I started playing golf and Ms. Suggs’ legacy, as a feisty competitor and quick-witted personality, is legendary. But it’s not her golf I’ll miss – there’s great golf today – it’s her personality. Players today just don’t seem to have the same spontaneity and, well, fun.
Ms. Suggs once said: “Golf is very much like a love affair – if you don’t take it seriously, it’s no fun. But if you do, it breaks your heart.” Today’s LPGA players are great, but I just can’t picture any of them saying something like this.
Maybe today’s players are just products of their times. They seem to be unable to take golf seriously AND have fun. They have “peeps” that manage them, they receive extensive PR and communications training, they have to consider their sponsors in all they do. Their lives are conducted like mini-corporations.
Compare today’s player to Amy Alcott, who once during a post-game interview was asked what her favorite sitcom was. She said All in the Family, then proceeded to sing the entire theme song. “Boy the way Glenn Miller played….” The network aired the entire rendition. Why? Because it was hysterically funny and spontaneous!
Or Meg Mallon grabbing her towel off her bag and waving it in surrender after Dottie Pepper bladed a sand wedge into the cup, thus ending Meg’s chances at victory. Would any of today’s players be that spontaneous or funny? Especially after having just lost?
But the best example of how our athletes have changed is at the Nabisco Dinah Shore (one of 5 major tournaments now called the ANA Inspiration). Amy Alcott was so overwhelmed with joy when she won in 1988, she spontaneously jumped into a pond at the 18th hole. The crowd roared. Today’s winners continue this tradition, but they do so with embroidered towels, perfectly placed TV cameras, and a predetermined list of who’s jumping into the pond with them. And the commentators talk about the pond jump continually for all 4 days of the tournament. While it’s still fun to watch, it was Alcott’s spontaneity that was so wonderful.
Maybe today’s players, with their mini-corporations, etc. just have more to lose so they’re more guarded. But I’d still just love to see some free-wheeling, nothing-to-lose personality come along. We’ll miss you, Louise.