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LPGA stars cry foul over Paulina Gretzky’s ‘Golf Digest’ cover

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While the world at large — including a large contingent of non-golfers — has greeted the appearance of Paulina Gretzky, PGA Tour star Dustin Johnson’s fiancée, on the cover of Golf Digest‘s annual fitness issue, a certain segment of the golf world has taken offense to her prominent placement on the May 2014 issue, set to hit newsstands April 15: Some LPGA members.

Gretzky, a recreational player at best, follows Golf Channel’s Holly Saunders and Kate Upton as the last three women to grace a Golf Digest cover. Upton appeared on the cover of the Sept. 2013 issue alongside legend Arnold Palmer. Sonders graced last year’s edition of the fitness issue.

Gretzky, the Internet phenomenon known for posting provocative photos featuring herself wearing skimpy bikinis is seen wearing skin-tight leggings, a sports bra on the cover and other assorted athletic attire for photographs within the magazine where she demonstrates several stretching exercises.

Several LPGA stars, both past and present roundly criticized Golf Digest for Gretzky’s appearance in the issue.

Stacy Lewis, the top-ranked American female golfer, was asked by a New York Times reporter following her round at the Nabisco Championship on Thursday about her thoughts regarding Gretzky’s cover and feature.

“It’s frustrating for female golfers,” Lewis said, according to Golf Channel. “It’s the state of where we’ve always been. We don’t get the respect for being the golfers we are. Obviously, Golf Digest is trying to sell magazines, but at the same time you like to see a little respect for the women’s game.”

“That’s just been the way it is for over 20, 30 years,” Inbee Park said. “We are trying to get closer to the guys [in popularity], but obviously we are never going to get there. That’s for sure. The LPGA is getting better and better.”

LPGA legend and Hall of Famer Juli Inkster concurred.

“It’s frustrating because it’s Golf Digest, it’s not Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue,” Inkster told the New York Times. “I think they should maybe recognize some of the great women golfers that we have. It’s like, what do you have to do to get a little respect? I’m guaranteeing you right now, it was not a woman editor who chose that cover.”

She is correct. Golf Digest‘s editor in chief is Jerry Tarde, who insisted Gretzky’s inclusion is consistent with what the magazine has done in the past.

“Sports figures, celebrities and models have appeared on Golf Digest covers since the magazine’s beginning,” Tarde said. “Paulina ranks at the high end of the golf celebrity scene today, and she has a compelling story to tell. She also might get some new people interested in the game.”

Lewis, Park and Inkster all make valid points and their opinions should be considered and respected. However, Tarde’s job is to sell magazines, and like it or not, this is how magazines go about pushing product.

Further, while some may consider the manner in which Gretzky is dressed on the cover and inside the magazine to be provocative, it isn’t inappropriate, nor is it over the top or to the level of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, as Inkster uses as a comparison.

All three women may want to look within the ranks of the LPGA as well. Belen Mozo has made an appearance in ESPN The Magazine’s “Body Issue,” as have Sandra Gal, Anna Grzebien and Christina Kim.

Other female golfers who may have not made a huge splash on the LPGA Tour and who are nevertheless tangentially involved in the world of women’s golf, including Sophie Horn, Blair O’Neal and Anna Rawson have used their attractiveness and sexuality to further their respective careers.

That does not mean that Golf Digest is right and should be absolved of any responsibility as it relates to how women’s professional golf is viewed through a different lens. It’s just that putting Paulina Gretzky on the cover in sexy athletic attire isn’t as sinister as it’s been characterized, nor is it the be all, end all statement disparaging the many talented golfers in the LPGA.

Anyone who covers golf is complicit, including this writer, in how women’s golf is covered. But Paulina Gretzky being on a cover of a magazine, or her absence, wasn’t going to change the world, either.

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