Time for golf\‘s \‘Queen of Mean\’ to go
By BILL HUFFMAN
On the eve of the biggest tournament in women’s golf – the U.S. Women’s Open – all is not well in LPGA-land.
According to Golfweek, and later confirmed by several of the rebellious lot, a group of high-profile players got together recently and signed a letter calling for the resignation of LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens. Basically, the 15 rebels who attended the secret dinner said that the LPGA’s recent woes involving lost tournaments – seven in the past two years with six more currently without a sponsor, including Phoenix — were more about Bivens’ my-way-or-the-highway personality and less about the economy.
This was no scrappy bunch of journeywomen who asked for Bivens’ head on a platter, either. This was Lorena Ochoa, the No. 1 player in women’s golf, as well as popular American players like Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis, Cristie Kerr, Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie. Other top international players supporting Bivens’ ouster included Suzann Pettersen and Yani Tseng.
As Pettersen spun it: “All we are doing is standing up for our Tour.’’ To which Ochoa added: "We are in the board’s hands.”
Bivens’ response? Well, two days into the latest craziness from the LPGA and golf’s "Queen of Mean” has yet to show her hand. It figures, as the one thing you can always count on from the curt commish is that she will do only what she wants to do when she wants to do it.
The master of disaster ever since she became the LPGA’s boss in 2005, Bivens seems to fly from one controversy to the next like she’s the queen of controversy.
Bivens’ odd journey into professional sports – she was a former media and advertising executive with Initiative Media North America and USA Today – has been a mockery since the opening day of her reign of terror. Or had you forgotten that she once laid down the law on how the media would report on and photograph LPGA tournaments and players.
Of course, the media revolted en masse – some publications even threatening to end coverage of the LPGA — and Bivens backed off even if she did keep a list of names that she has never forgotten (including yours truly).
From that point, it was one fiasco after another as Bivens (in no specific order) offended the game’s elite with various snubs and oversights; alienated sponsors to the point that the LPGA schedule is in dire straits; and fired or indignantly replaced long-time officials within the LPGA with her goon squad.
At first, there was speculation by a few players and casual observers that the media might have gotten it wrong about the 56-year-old Bivens. Surely, the sweet-smiling Carolyn was just a lightning rod for change and her aggressive nature/harsh tactics were all for the good of the LPGA and its future.
But last year when Bivens declared that all players on the LPGA would have to speak English by 2009 or be suspended from tournament play, the wheels came off her vehicle for change. That she targeted only South Koreans for her English-only classes seemed a little too discriminating to some. Of course, others felt that it was so offensive and racist that lawsuits were looming on the horizon by the time she finally backed off.
As Bivens always does with such aplomb, she quickly tried to make the fiasco somebody else’s fault, notably the media. Looking back in retrospect, the players should have demanded that she Bivens down right there.
But they didn’t and so Bivens continued to make a fool out of herself. Like her most recent boo-boo – “To Tweet or not to Tweet.’’ As Bivens’ blunders go, this was classic.
Talking to a reporter earlier in the season, Bivens was quoted by one national publication as saying, “I’d love it if our players Twittered during the middle of their rounds.’’
Guess what the response from her troops was to that brilliant idea?
“I will not be twittering when I play. It should not happen in any sport’’ was the immediate reaction from Creamer.
Then Golf Channel/NBC reporter Dottie Pepper added: “Twittering on the course is absurb, absolutely absurb.’’
Realizing she had come up with another bad idea, Bivens handled it by claiming she was “taken out of context.’’
Which brings us to the age-old question: When is enough, enough? Hey, it only took the LPGA one year to get rid of Bill Blue as commissioner, and all he said was he had "an impossible job trying to make 200 women happy.’’
For the record, Bivens has two more years left in her three-year extension, so why not just pay her off and get rid of her? At the current rate of attrition, the LPGA could be down to 19 tournaments by the end of 2011, so a change at the top couldn’t come soon enough in many players’ eyes.
But apparently that won’t be an easy task for the LPGA board of directors, which is made up of seven players (several Bivens backers among them) and six independent directors. Plus, CB has become good at dodging controversy so maybe she’ll just hunker down in the bunker.
Hey, if Bivens can avoid what essentially is like getting fired this week there’s not another tournament in the U.S. until late August. Maybe the players will be worn out and back off by then, who knows?
Unfortunately, this latest mess involving Bivens is overshadowing this week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Saucon Valley Country Club outside Philadelphia. It’s as if the national championship’s spotlight has been redirected to the one person who really seems to know very little about the players or the sport she’s overseeing.
This is a sad state of affairs because five years ago when Bivens took the controls, the LPGA’s future could not have looked brighter. There were all these young fresh faces and tournaments seemed to be financially sound in the U.S. and expanding globally. And Annika Sorenstam was No. 1 in the world and seemingly on a path to rewrite the record books.
In a way, the women’s game had it all. But what has followed has been anything but. Lately there even have been unconfirmed reports that the LPGA is upside down financially and will soon be taken over by the PGA Tour, the end result being all of golf’s professional tours in America under one umbrella.
Sure, that’s a big jump from Bivens’ possible resignation/’firing even if that would effectively be the first step in the LPGA’s redirection. Still, the bottom line is when you’ve lost the respect of those you are leading, there is no recovery that is sustainable.
Certainly it would be ironic if Bivens stepped down this week? For those who have forgotten, it was Bivens who thought the LPGA “owned’’ the U.S. Women’s Open when she first ascended to her throne. When she found out the U.S. Golf Association was actually in charge, a vindictive Bivens responded by instituting a new rule that didn’t factor in a player’s earnings at the national championship towards their season’s winnings.
On the surface it seemed like such a small thing, but it all adds up in the end. Then again, that’s the Carolyn Bivens we’ve come to know, and so it’s the right time for her to go.