So why were the crowds so paltry at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey for the 2017 Women’s US Open golf tournament?

In my humble opinion:

The weather was not good.  Well, that could account for some no shows on days 1 and 2 but let’s be honest. If this were a Bruce Springsteen concert at MetLife Stadium, 70,000 loyal fans would have put on their rain gear and showed up. It has happened many times. Because Bruce has a following. Ultimately, women’s golf does not. The question is why? These are incredibly talented athletes and great, great golfers. 

Fans boycotted the venue because it is owned by The Donald.  I don’t agree with this either. Sure, there may have been a few who stood on principal but once again we need to look at Bruce.  Despite his liberal leanings, thousands of conservatives attend his shows because they set politics aside and enjoy the showmanship, talent and the music. When it comes to ladies’ professional golf, there simply is no fan base to support the tour, even the majors. If there was more appeal, attendance would “trump” politics.

Golfers prefer to play rather than watch. While I do believe this, golfers still come to live pro golf when the men are involved.  Some think it’s as simple as they like to see the men bomb the ball 350 yards plus down the fairways (and roughs).  I do not think this is the reason. 

Ladies’ professional golf lacks personality. I don’t agree with this. When you scratch the surface, there are many terrific personalities on the ladies’ tour. On the whole, they are friendlier and more accessible than their male counterparts. 

The American fans do not relate to the profusion of Asian players on the ladies’ tour.  At one point the entire leader board consisted of non-American Asian players. This is getting warmer but not the entire issue. Michele Wie is American Asian. She is a draw.  Lexi Thompson is a great player and a draw. While I do believe there is some racism involved, the bottom line is there simply are not enough great American players and the sport is dominated and will continue to be dominated by Korean, and soon, Chinese players. 

Speaking of racism this reminds me of the NBA in the 70s. Professional basketball was struggling and don’t fool yourself.  It was perceived as “too black.” Ticket sales were not good until the great white hope, Larry Bird entered the league. Now, David Stern and his team do deserve some credit for saving the NBA, but the truth is what saved the league and gave Stern and company something to work with, was a rivalry…Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson…the Showtime Lakers vs the Boston Celtics dynasty.  Was there racism…oh yes.  But a true rivalry is what saved the day and paved the way for today’s gazillionaire basketball players.

To me it’s clear. Arnie vs Jack. Tiger vs Phil. The LPGA does not have this kind of rivalry. Yes it would help to have a dynamic player and personality like Tiger. But Tiger is a one in a million.  The most interesting tournaments on the ladies’ side occurred when Michele Wie and Lexi Thomsen faced off head to head in a major. There are many great female golfers today but until a rivalry is created, they will continue to struggle and fans will choose to go out and play their weekend nassau rather than take the time to support the LPGA tour. How is a rivalry created you ask?  It starts with standing for something.  Arnie was the blue-collar guy, son of a greenskeeper. By the time Jack came along, he was at first shunned as an elitist until he earned his stripes. In the case of Magic and Bird, yes there was some black vs white, but in the end talent prevailed and both players and teams earned the respect of their competitors and their fan bases.  I don’t know who will stand up and be counted among the ladies, but what I do know is there is plenty of talent and personality to choose from. 

So back to Bruce. Who was his rival. It is obvious. Bruce represents the blue-collar underdog.  The man with a work ethic and the talent to match. His populism is something he struggled with and in the end learned to embrace. He is the anti-hero who most resembles, in golf terms, Arnold Palmer. Bird was the Hick from French Lick, Indiana. Maybe a female golf pro will emerge who is not from the elite country club class or the daughter of a tiger mom or dad.

Ladies’ golf might be the better for it.   

Hugh Miller