Free Admission: Where Are the Fans?

By: Dave Andrews

Paula Creamer is tuning up for the LPGA's upcoming 2009 season. With under a month to go before the first event of the year, the second-leading money winner in the 2008 season competed this week in a Suncoast Ladies Series event on a course just outside Orlando, Fla. It was a very small field of players (27), made up mostly of LPGA and Duramed Futures Tour pros. The Suncoast series is a Central Florida mini-tour for women pros in the off-season.

One would imagine that a lot of fans of the women's pro game would have loved the chance to go out to Forest Lake Golf Club in Ocoee to watch, for free, one of the biggest current stars on the LPGA. After all, this was quite an opportunity for an up-close and personal experience with a current superstar of women's golf. However, during all three days of the tournament you could count on two hands the number of people in the "gallery" who followed Creamer's threesome around the course. Half of those were friends or relatives of the three players.

Granted, the Suncoast events are not heavily publicized and the weather was on the cold side by central Florida standards. But word of mouth alone should have been enough to attract more than just a handful of golf fans to watch the second-leading money winner on the LPGA Tour in 2008.

The same apparent lack of intense fan interest in the women's pro game was also evident in December at the LPGA Q School tournament at LPGA International in Daytona Beach. For five days some of the better-known names in the women's golf, including heavily-touted young stars like Michelle Wie and Stacy Lewis, competed to earn their LPGA Tour cards for the upcoming season. That event was open to the public and also free to attend. Except for the final day, when a few hundred spectators followed the final groups of contenders and ringed the 18th green, fan attendance was very low.

Creamer has been one of the LPGA's best players and marquee names since she joined the tour in 2005 at the age of 18. She won twice in her rookie season, and won four times on the tour last year. Creamer has earned more than $5 million through her four full seasons on the LPGA. She is one of the most visible faces of the LPGA, one of the tour's primary "drawing cards," and one of the most intense competitors on any tour. Yet Creamer played this week in an event in the heart of America's "golf country" and very few people were interested in watching her, even though it wouldn't have cost them a dime.

The LPGA should take notice of the small fan turnout at these two free events in the past two months. LPGA players put on a great show. They are the elite women golfers in the world. The tour should be hard at work to get more fans in the stands in women's golf.

For the record, Creamer shot 1-over par (75, 71 and 71) in this week's Suncoast Ladies Series tournament and finished in a tie for fifth place. The event was won by Johanna (Head) Mundy, who shot 4-under over the three days. It was the second Suncoast series victory in a row for the veteran LPGA player from Ascot, England.

M.J. Hur, a rookie on the LPGA Tour this season, finished second, one shot behind Mundy. Mundy's identical twin sister, Samantha Head, finished in fourth at even par. Head is a member of the Ladies European Tour and has also played on the Duramed Futures Tour.

Dave Andrews is a Harvard-educated former television news reporter. He's also an avid golfer who has become a fan of the Duramed Futures Tour. His home course in Concord, N.H., is annually the site of one of the tour's events. The inspiration for Dave's 2007 novel, "Pops and Sunshine," came from meeting many of the young aspiring women golfers on that tour. Each of them has a passion, dedication and determination that he finds remarkable. His novel is a fictionalization of the dream that these young women share. To order Dave's book, visit