On each of the four occasions that Laura Davies and the rest have won the Solheim Cup, people have wondered if that could do the trick; if the Ladies’ European Tour would finally ignite in a big way. Last September’s glorious victory at Killeen Castle in Ireland promised more than any of the three that had gone before.
Sodden spectators stayed riveted to the end, while those who watched Sky’s excellent TV coverage swore that they would be fans of the women’s game for life. As it was, everything went quiet after that golden week. Though appetites had been well and truly whetted, there was nothing to hold people’s attention thereafter.
Such tournaments as were left in 2011 were held virtually in camera, with only the most dedicated of channel-hoppers knowing where to find a programme of highlights delivered two days after the close of play.
“The regular TV coverage is dreadful,” admits Davies, the record points’ holder in a Solheim Cup context.
Like many another, Davies feels that UCOM, the German TV company who have been associated with the LET since the start of 2011, have done the Tour a mischief. She bemoans the way they concentrate on arty shots – falling leaves and flying divots – instead of capturing the golfers’ reactions and personalities.
“Highlights on a Tuesday,” she suggests, “are not the answer. They’re never going to grab anyone, especially when the coverage includes little more than a drive here and a putt there.”
Davies had two incidents last year in which she was disturbed by cameramen who were less than golf-aware – and a third in which she was reduced to arguing with one of the crew. All would have been forgiven had she felt the end product was of some good, but that was manifestly not the case.
She does not know the ins and outs of what has gone on but she wonders how this company came to take the place of Ark Productions, who seemed to be making things happen.
On much the same lines, Davies was bitterly disappointed at the Solheim Cup video. “I thought to myself, ‘This will be fun to watch.’ And it was the biggest let-down. Unlike a Ryder Cup video, it didn’t begin to give the whole picture.”
Of the LET itself, Davies says that Alexander Armas, the CEO, has done well to have as many as 24 tournaments lined up for 2012 in the present climate.
“It looks okay, and the new Handa Ladies British Masters at the Buckinghamshire is a great get.
“On the other side of the coin,” she continued, “the girls are crying out for more prize money. There are too many €200,000 tournaments, events where anyone who has a caddie needs to finish in the top five if she is going to make a profit.”
Those who have lodged complaints about some of the more lowly prize funds have been advised that they don’t have to play but, as Davies asks, “What kind of an answer is that?”
This winner of some 85 tournaments is often given to wonder if things could have been different had the women head-hunted a top businessman to run their affairs rather than rely on former players, hard-working though many of them may be.
“Treading water” is how she sums up what has happened over the last 20 years. “There are five or six great events but too many others are at the same level as they’ve always been.”
If Davies seems a touch exasperated, it has not a little to do with the fact that the women’s game always seems to be up against it in one way or another.
She was no more surprised that Yani Tseng lost out to Rory McIlroy in Golf Magazine’s Player of the Year than she
was when the winning Solheim side did not finish in the top three in the BBC’s team awards.
Back in 1996, when Davies was No. 1 in the world after winning two majors and a total of 10 tournaments, she was invited to the annual BBC bash and barely got a mention. She is not complaining, just telling it as it is.
Somehow, the LET needs to bully its way to the fore and seek help in the matter of making more of an impact in the world at large. Spreading the word to best advantage is never going to happen through the LET website and Tuesday highlights.
Even now, they have thrown away too many chances. When the European Tour wanted to make the most of the 2010 Ryder Cup, they opted for a captain who would make the biggest possible waves amid the recession, Colin Montgomerie. Those who follow women’s golf think that Davies could perform much the same role for the LET. That, though, isn’t going to happen. Davies has said she does not want the job.
Sadly, the suspicion here is that her decision has been coloured by the attitude of those among her fellow players who have tended to see her as more of a threat than an asset.