Cristie Kerr wins and ends two-year drought

There were a lot of great stories to follow this week in golf.  The stories included which bubble boys of the PGA tour would make the top 125, Charlie Beljan being so ill on Friday that he had to go the hospital after his round and then he wins the tournament on Sunday, and Stacy Lewis clinching LPGA Player of the Year; but I want to acknowledge Cristie Kerr’s win at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.

First, I followed the action on Twitter and my Golf Channel iPhone App because the tournament was not televised.  Hopefully the LPGA and the Golf Channel were monitoring the twitter conversation because I was not the only fan that lamented the fact it was not on TV.  It should be noted that the tournament page on the LPGA website lists TV times on November 15, 16, 17 and 18 but in my mind that is “a day late and a dollar short.”

Fortunately, the LPGA YouTube channel has highlight videos.  It was interesting to see that Angela Standford missed her birdie putt on the 18th hole which would have tied Kerr at sixteen under.  Then Kerr misses her birdie putt on the 18th and has a testy par putt to win.  Even Kerr said that she “had to make it interesting” in the end. If you don’t want to watch the full video below, fast forward to the time of 1:53 to see Stanford’s putt and Kerr’s highlights and interview.

It was nice to see Cristie Kerr win.  She is 35 years old and this was her 15th career win and she has 17 of the 27 points needed to get into the Hall of Fame.  It’s a big challenge to become a Hall of Fame Golfer but I believe Kerr has the determination and game to make it into the Hall of Fame.  However, as Brent Kelly wrote in his article, “The LPGA’s Hall of Fame Criteria are Anything but Easy,” the LPGA’s point system is “much more stringent than those of just about any other sports Hall of Fame you can name.”

Finally, some people may not be as positive about Kerr winning or wish her the best because the rumors on the internet indicate she has a prickly personality.  I do not know Kerr so I’m not going to judge her interpersonal skills.  This is about acknowledging an athlete overcoming a two-year drought and winning again in a very competitive sport.

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The LPGA’s Funny Girl – Tiffany Joh

Another US Women’s Open has come to a close and most bloggers will be writing about the winner, Na Yeon Choi but I’m going to highlight a player that did not even make the cut — American golfer, Tiffany Joh.  Why?  Because, whether it is intentional or not — she is in the process of building a unique personal brand.

This year Joh is struggling a bit with her game and is 115 in the Rolex World Rankings.  However, Joh is a solid player and shows promise.  Joh won twice on the LPGA’s Future tour.  As a member of the LPGA 2011 Rookie Class, Joh had an excellent year with $237,365 in earnings and ranked eighty-seven (87) on the Rolex Women’s World Golf rankings list.  Joh also had a top 10 finish in 2012.  She was second at the Navistar Classic.  Unfortunately for Joh, it was the tournament Lexi Thompson (Golf’s newly anointed “phenom”) made history as the youngest winner (at age 16) on the LPGA.

So what makes Joh unique?  The PGA may have the Golf Boys but the LPGA has Tiffany Joh.  She loves music and has become known for her music videos.  This week, the week of the 2012 US Women’s Open, she posted her most recent video on her YouTube channel (Just Your Morning Cup of Joh.)   The video is All I Do is Win (LPGA Remix).  A parody of the song, “All I Do is Win” by Ludacris.

Joh has had a YouTube channel since 2008 but she really got noticed for her LPGA video last year “Grip It” (a parody of Freak Nasty’s 1996 hit song “Da’ Dip”).  It’s amazing how she get’s her fellow LPGA players to be silly on video.

Not only is she clever and creative with music videos but she has a great channel title “Just your morning cup of Joh” and user name “CupofJoh” and has a cartoon-like drawing (self-portrait – I’m guessing) and uses it as her YouTube channel and Twitter background.  All creating a unique personal brand.

The one thing that surprised me is that her website does not carry this branding.  However, if you visit the website, Joh’s humor and attitude come through loud and clear with just a single page stating “You are a Nerd…Websites are for Nerds.”  Is she ahead of the curve or just representative of her generation who live on social media?  I believe it is the later.  After all, the websites of the big golf stars are supported by big sponsor money.  So Joh’s site may get an upgrade if she lands a major sponsor.

It’s not just that Joh is using social media but she is savvy too — do you think the timing of the recent video was a fluke? No way.  The US Women’s open gets more press than any other women’s golf event and Joh’s video was all over twitter (at least the people who tweet about golf).

As I mentioned earlier, Joh did not make the cut at the US Women’s Open but her sense of humor never fails.  Here is a screen shot of her tweet from the airport the next day:

Tweet from Tiffany Joh on Missing Cut at US Women's Open

If you are old school and think golfers should only get noticed for their golf achievements than Tiffany Joh’s style may not be your “cup of tea” (or joh); but I respect the fact that she has developed a personal brand that sets herself apart from all the other young female golfers on tour.

Funny tweets from LPGA golfers

I have been following a number of the LPGA players on twitter and it is really amazing how much information they share about their personal lives.  Yes, they do promote events they are attending and products they use (or should I say endorse) but overall the tweets are not commercial.  In fact, many of the ladies are quite funny.

The best tweets involve photos, food and/or drink, insider jokes, and conversations between players.  Below are some examples.  If you are not familiar with Twitter, I’ll do my best to explain.  One thing to keep in mind is that anytime you see a twitter handle (like @ChristinaKim) just replace it with a name.  Here we go….

Here is a tweet from Christina Kim that represents it all (Photo, Food, Humor – self-deprecation).  Kim replied to a tweet from Nicole Hage.  Hage tweeted a photo showing her recent baking efforts.  Hage says “all done” (and includes a photo) and Kim replies ” You bake, and look like you….”

Christina Kim Tweet to Hage

Now, Kim has been tweeting a lot about her workouts at the gym (which adds to this already funny tweet.)  If you don’t know this…in the tweet above, there is a photo, Kim is the women in the front (that’s Michelle Wei behind her and the photo is from the Solheim Cup).

Nicole Hage

Here is a Photo of Nicole Hage.  I had to add the photo because Kim said  “you bake, and look like you” (so I know my readers would ask, so what does Nicole Hage look like).

Now, many of you who read my blog know I have written about slow play and how it is bad for the game.  So here is a funny tweet between two players about the time it took to play a Pro-Am tournament.

Suzann Petterson Tweet on Pro-AMChristina Kim reply to Pro-Am As you can see, Kim’s reply comes after Pettersens’ text..5:50, Stop exaggerating. Ugh!  The joke is self-evident.  Hopefully, now you get how to read the tweets.

Below is a “tweet conversation” that I loved because the players are exchanging a bit of “teasing” before a match.  Sophie Gustafson and Karen Stupples were scheduled to go head-to-head in match play (this was tweeted the night before the match).

Tweet between Gustafson and Stupples

Gustafson Foot Photo

And, Gustafson attached photo of her foot…to which, Karen later tweeted..love the golf tan.

Here is a great tweet from Karen Stupples regarding a rain delay.

Stupples tweet about rain delay in NJ

I guess as a traveling golfer you see it all.  Here is a photo tweeted from Rachel Connor.

Connor Tweet on Airplane

And how about this tweet from Sophie Gustafson at an airport terminal.  I can’t attach the video but here is a still of the object on the luggage carousel (yup, it’s a Heinken)

Gustafson Video Tweet

There are so many more good tweets I could show but this post would just get too long.  I want to end with two that are not really “funny” like the ones about; but show the great support these players give each other (as friends) on tour.

Kerr tweet to GulbisLincicome Tweet Congrats to OToole

This week, at the ShopRite tournament, the LPGA will promote the use of twitter by adding player’s twitter handles to name tags that go on the back of the caddie’s bib.  Now, as a fan, I already follow my favorites. So the bibs are interesting but I’m not sure it will get me to follow more.  As a marketing professional, I say “good for the LPGA for trying something new;” and I will be interested to see if it impacts individual player’s (i.e. will they get more followers.)  I plan to do my own research and see if I see any spikes in followers for the players.  By the way, the LPGA did tweet about the new name tags.

LPGA Photo Tweet

Finally, are you wondering which LPGA player has the most followers?  Well, it is Natalie Gulbis with 115,855 followers (as of May 28 at 2:38 pm).  This doesn’t surprise me given I wrote a blog post titled “Natalie Gulbis – This golfer is a savvy Marketer.”

There are no “gimme” putts in major tournaments

The most amazing thing about watching the Kraft Nabisco TV coverage on Sunday was the sound — the sound of the spectators gasping in unison as they watched, what everyone thought was a “gimme” putt lip-out of the cup.  The sound of disbelief that the leader, I. K. Kim missed a one-foot putt.

Instead of winning her first major in regulation, Kim was now in a sudden-death playoff.  The players would play the 18th hole over and over again until someone won.  Well, it only took one playoff hole and it was heartbreaking to see how Kim looked so defeated.  As much as I’m sure everyone was hoping she would win in the playoff, it was not surprising to see Sun Young Yoo make a birdie putt and win.

Once again, we witnessed how golf tests the mental toughness of players.  First, the loss of concentration to miss a “gimme” putt.  It is called a “gimme” putt because it is so close to the hole that if you were playing for fun (not scoring for a handicap or anything meaningful), your friends would say “that’s a gimme” assuming you would make the putt.  So, you’d pick up your ball and move on.  But there are no “gimme” putts in majors.

Then, after such a monumental error, the player must have the mental fortitude to get prepared for the playoff.  You could tell from I. K. Kim’s body language that she was still in shock from what just happened a few minutes earlier.  Her first shot off the tee when left into the rough.  That is when I knew that mentally she was done and it would not be a multiple hole playoff.

Hopefully, Kim will move on and learn from this experience.  We have seen other players “shake it off” after a devastating loss.  I wrote a post about Kyle Stanley’s amazing comeback after losing at the Farmers Insurance Open and winning the next week at the Waste Management Open.

I’ll be watching now to see if I. K. Kim can over come her “big miss.”  Her next opportunity to win will be mid-April at the Lotte Championship when the LPGA goes to Hawaii.

A final note on human nature — the sad thing is that most people will not remember Yoo’s win; but they will remember Kim’s loss.

What Does the Natalie Gulbis Swimsuit Photo have to do with Charity?

The Bleacher Report is “the US’s 4th largest sports media site with 25+ million monthly readers,” and they reported that the release of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit photo of Natalie Gulbis was timed perfectly for a charity that is auctioning a chance to caddy for Gulbis in an upcoming LPGA event.

So I went to the site for the charity and to my surprise it is not some big foundation but an Episcopal School in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Not only do they have Natalie Gulbis but they also have the chance to be a caddy for David Love III as an auction item. You can bid on them or “pay now” for one of them for $8,000.

What a windfall from a PR perspective for the Charity. Now, you might think it makes sense that Davis Love is listed because he lives in Charlotte and went to the University of North Carolina (in Charlotte) but how did they get Gulbis?  She did not go to school in North Carolina and she lives in Arizona. I was hoping it was just plain luck on the part of the charity but my curiosity got the best of me and I wanted see if I could find the connection.

Well according to another article I found at Golf Channel, “A parent who works in sports marketing for consulting firm McGladrey helped secure the caddy spots.”  And, surprise, surprise, both golfers are clients of McGladrey.  Also according to the Golf Channel Article, the head of the school said they did not know that the SI swimsuit edition was coming out.  Really?  The parent who works for McGladrey surely knew when their client’s swimsuit press would be released.

Whether or not the school was aware of the PR windfall they were about to get this week is probably not that important; but it is clearly not as big a “coincidence” as the original article in the Bleacher Report implied.  That makes me a little bit sad because it would have been fun if it were just luck. Wouldn’t it have been great if Gulbis was just a person supporting a charity she liked (i.e. no sports marketing connections).  Maybe that makes me a bit of an idealist but it would have been a better “story.”

I guess the only other outstanding question is will someone pay $8,000 to spend 4 or 5 hours to caddy for Gulbis?  We will most likely find out after February 25 (the night of the charity event) — I’m sure the folks at McGladrey are already working on the press release.

Natalie Gulbis — This Golfer is a Savvy Marketer

As a professional golfer, Natalie Gulbis has only one win (in 2007) since her rookie year on tour in 2002.  Her current world ranking is 121.  If you just look at her golfing statistics you would not assume she was one of the LPGA’s stars; but she is – mostly because of her off-course skills in marketing her personal brand.

This week she is in the news because she is in the 2012 Sport Illustrated Swimsuit edition and she isn’t exactly wearing a swimsuit. She is wearing body paint that looks like she has on a swimsuit.  Her photo is very sexy and there is even a video of the photo shoot.

The debate that has come up is whether or not this is good or bad for golf.  My question is why is this up for debate?  Professional athletes have been posing provocatively for years in magazines and commercials (did people question if David Beckham’s Super Bowl underwear ad was bad for professional soccer?)

Anyone that follows golf knows that Gulbis has always marketed herself as a “sexy” golfer.  She did her own swimsuit calendar for years, she posed in FHM  (For Men Magazine) which is most known for it’s “sexiest woman in the world” list.  She is often referred to as “a golfer, model, and business woman.”  She seeks out publicity – she was even on the Celebrity Apprentice (not a high mark in my opinion).

One thing I do find interesting is the LPGA banned her 2005 calendar from being sold in the “souvenir shop” at the 2004 US Women’s Open.  Yet, in 2008, she received the William and Mousie Powell award, given by the LPGA, to the player who “in the opinion of her playing peers, through her behavior and deeds best exemplifies the spirit, ideals and values of the LPGA.”  For me, what her peers are saying is that Gulbis does a lot of good for the reputation of the tour.  Why?  I think because she also brings a lot of positive press to the tour via her charity work, her promotion of golf, and the exposure from the number of major bands she represents (i.e. MasterCard, Lexus, Adidas, Taylor Made, Sky Caddie, etc.)

As a woman, do I want women athletes objectified? — Of course not.  But the reality is that sports are in the entertainment business and like any field of entertainment, sports needs savvy marketers –like Gulbis — to create awareness of their sport.  You can approve or disapprove of her recent choice but you can’t discount her ability to bring awareness to her sport.  And since the LPGA needs more fans, they need “personalities” like Gulbis — At least until they have another Annika to promote.

Six-Player Sudden Death Playoff

The ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open was decided in a six-player sudden death playoff.  I had never seen a six-player playoff and wondered if it was a record.  Sure enough, six players is the largest number of players in a LPGA playoff; but this is not the first time it has happened.   According to the LPGA records, in 1999  at the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic there was a six-player playoff.

The Australian Open playoff was won by a teenage American, not Lexi Thompson (as most would assume) but by 18-year-old Jessica Korda.  She won on the second hole of the playoff with a birdie.  Korda is currently ranked #285 in the world and beat a number of stellar players. Here are their Rolex World rankings:

It was interesting to watch because a lot of the press coverage about Korda was that her dad is a well-known tennis pro in Australia and won the Australia Open Tennis title in 1998.  So even if Korda did not have the hype Lexi Thompson has had (Thompson has been called “the young American phenom”), she must have felt some additional pressure with the attention she was getting in the press.

On the other hand, maybe what Korda was feeling this week was great karma from her dad.  As she said in her press conference  “It (Melbourne, Australia) is a really special place for my family. For my first win, I honestly could not have thought of a better place.”