U.S. Women’s Open: For the integrity of the game and its players

Michelle Wie of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning in the final round of the 69th U.S. Women's Open at Pinehurst Resort
Michelle Wie of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning in the final round of the 69th U.S. Women's Open at Pinehurst Resort /

The 72nd U.S. Women’s Open should be a moment celebrating the game and the women who play it.

The 72nd U.S. Women’s Open means many things to many people, but for women who play golf this is one of the game’s penultimate events. It is the longest-running tournament in American women’s golf. It is our national open competition where the best in the game come to test their skills against a challenging track and against each other.

There’s a unique purity to athletic competition and among the sports the game of golf stands in the forefront for it’s potential to test skill and endurance among competitors absent the distractions of state and the culture wars.

Ours is a sport that’s been globalized far beyond the imagination of those Scots who invented a game to be played on the land that lay between tilled fields and the sea. Ours is a sport that should be elevated above and set apart from rhetorical collision.

And so, when I consider the rumblings of threatened lawsuits and potential protests surrounding the 72nd U.S. Women’s Open, I am distressed and saddened.

To be sure, whether in Arizona or Buenos Aires the game of golf is also big business. That’s as it should be. Golfers need courses, and clubs, and shoes – a place to play and equipment with which to do it. Tournaments need sponsors and directors. The pros have a right to make a living wage and those who excel should be rewarded with winner’s purses and gorgeous silver trophies and public accolades from peers and fans.

The current controversy swirling around the 72nd U.S. Women’s Open has nothing to do with the business of golf and everything to do with the ethics that simultaneously ground and elevate the game.

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Whether or not the USGA erred in failing to terminate its contract with Trump National Golf Club to host the 72nd U.S. Women’s Open because the club’s owner has openly and brazenly devalued and sexualized women is a question worth asking.

Whether or not Trump National Golf Club engaged in a raw exercise of power and a not-so-subtle exercise of intimidation by threatening to sue the USGA should that contract be terminated is also a question worth asking.

Beyond these, and no doubt other, complex deliberations, however, there is one simple fact before us today. This is championship week at the 72nd U.S. Women’s Open. This is a week for celebration of the game and the women who play it, not a time to debate and protest.

Make no mistake. I am a woman and I am a golfer, and I brook no meddling with my right to walk the streets and the fairways safe from assault and insult. I do not tolerate sexualized slurs or unwanted advances against myself or my sisters.  But for the integrity of the game and the women who play it, let’s set this debate aside and allow no controversy to distract us from the celebration of U.S. Women’s Open championship week.

Next: U.S. Women's Open power rankings

The USGA must ultimately address this matter, but has elected not to do so at this time. Like many others, I feel that this attempt to sidestep the controversy engendered by the disclosure of the Access Hollywood tape could have long-term, negative repercussions on girls’ and women’s involvement in the game of golf. I add my voice to those urging the USGA to think deeply about strategies and policies that will block such controversies in future contractual negotiations.