I’ll start by saying I think Paige Spiranac is great for golf. Since leaving college she has worked tirelessly to create a following that now makes her one of the most important social influencers in the game, she is to put it bluntly, untouchable.
Paige caught the headlines when she played at the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, which divided golfers everywhere; how could they pick someone based on the fact they have 670,000 followers on Instagram they murmured. Well, It’s time to get real people because social presence is a priceless commodity in a sport that lacks charisma, imagination and pizzazz.
When I first heard that Paige Spiranac was doing a cover for one of golf’s major publications I thought awesome, even the greys are starting to appreciate the importance of promoting personalities. It’s easy to look at Paige’s profile and draw some pretty adolescent conclusions, but the truth is her popularity stems from her “girl next door” image that she projects, which helps make golf “cool”.
When I finally set eyes on the cover I was honestly perplexed. A little more digging and you’ll find content that makes you wonder how a 14-year-old boy found his way into Golf Digest’s editorial setup, a team that resembles the advisory panel to the Taxation and IRS Oversight committee. They have unapologetically deployed a creeping strategy to promote an incredibly attractive and vivacious personality for the benefit of dad like dudes who don’t have the conviction to get their kicks elsewhere. You can’t deny Paige leverages this type of attention to her benefit, but when such content is contracted out to a bunch of seedy dudes I can’t help but feel it erodes the lifestyle message that Paige has worked so hard to convey.
The latest Golf Digest cover concludes a long line of publications that put a premium on short term magazine sales. Who can really blame them? Print media has been forced to forage for sellable content, the industry as a whole is on its knees and sex will always sell.
For many Golf Digest fans the Paulina Gretzky cover was a step to far, I mean the celebutante couldn’t even pretend to hold a golf club convincingly. I know I sit here self-righteously grandstanding but I can’t remain uncritical of golf’s most revered magazine disregarding one of golf’s most sensational talents, the 18-year-old sensation Lydia Ko.
Lydia has 17 professional wins which include two majors championships, that’s 8 more than Jordan Spieth and he’s four years her senior. Which begs the question, why have we not heard a squeak from Golf Digest? “You look at what Lydia Ko is doing, and why isn’t she on the cover?” Julie Inkster told the Golf Channel. Ko is about to tee it up at the Swinging Skirts Classic, seeking a hat-trick of titles at the San Francisco stop of the tour.
“I know that stuff sells, and they are in the business of selling magazines, but I think people could learn more in an article about Lydia,” added Inkster. “It’s kind of where our society is right now. I don’t agree with it, but it’s their magazine and they can do what they want.”
Even Paige seemed a little embarrassed by the timing of her Golf Digest appearance.
@PaigeSpiranac you looked absolutely amazing on the cover!!! ????
— Lydia Ko (@LydiaKo) April 21, 2016
That’s the thing though, it’s a matter of timing. I’m not saying Paige shouldn’t ever be on the cover of a Golf Digest magazine, on the contrary, but it was an error of judgement to do it in the middle of Lydia’s dominance. “You look across other platforms, I feel like people are starting to take notice of us as players and us as athletes, but Golf Digest seems to be the anomaly,” said top American player Stacey Lewis.
If you take anything away from this article it’s this: just three LPGA Tour players have made the cover of Golf Digest since 2008: Lorena Ochoa, Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson. A picture speaks a thousand words so I’ll let a comparison of Golf Digest covers do the talking.
Appreciate Paige for what she brings to golf
Paige exemplifies a type of golf that’s about fitting the game into your social life and not the other way around. This resonates with the golf fan who feels a stigma surrounds a sport that is constantly maligned for its elitist country club stereotype. We should therefore embrace Paige because she offers a new and exciting perception of the golfer, not because we have the opportunity to choreograph a photoshoot that will appease the most cowardly type of pervert.
Lets not forget Paige is popular because she offers something we’ve never seen before, there have been plenty of good looking women before Paige that have have left no social footprint whatsoever. She is unique because she offers an insight into her life that no other female golfer has successfully achieved. This is largely to do with unimaginative posting from LPGA players, we see accounts that are clogged up with shameless corporate plugging and drab lifestyle references. People just don’t get excited about the fact you’ve been given a new rolex or you eat power bars on the course. People don’t really care that you feel “blessed” or even that you thank god every day. It’s prosaic, uninspiring and devalued by the brands that are never far from the narrative.
If you look at the leading male golfers you’ll find they mostly involve themselves with sponsorship arrangements that champion their distinctive personalities. Unfortunately this isn’t possible in the women’s game, they are forced to do their sponsors bidding to ensure they have endorsements in the first place. This perpetuates a cycle where a player’s social currency is constantly eroded, exacerbating the problem further by forcing them to be even more submissive to their whims of their backers. There are only so many brand testimonials and product plugs an audience can consume before they stop giving a crap.
We finally have a personality that grew an enormous following organically and now Golf Digest are trying to erode her potency with content that would have Robin Thicke saying “wo wo wo…fellas”. They post articles deriding the emergence of leggings on the golf course before championing the very person that influences this stylistic revolution. Paige always talks about learning from her mistakes, letting the perverts at Golf Digest orchestrate a weird photoshoot under the guise of being “futuristic” was a mistake.
I’ve always had little time for those who don’t understand the importance of Paige Spiranac, her LPGA debut brought publicity to a tournament that would have fallen by the wayside, it was proof that with the right intentions her influence can be priceless. I just felt her work with Golf Digest removed the agency she commands on her social channels, it was all a bit forced.
Paige should remember that people love her because she reads Marvel, because she invites you into her personal life in an endearing manner. It’s for this reason her promotion of the cover received a third of the interaction she normally receives – remember this is supposed to represent the pinnacle of her career so why are her loyal fans not enthusiastic? Not that my advice counts for anything but Paige doesn’t need Golf Digest, she is a brand in her own right. Furthermore Golf Digest should take a long hard look at themselves and ask why the self-proclaimed pantheon of golf journalism ignores a record breaking teenager on the brink of making LPGA Tour history.