Standard Is Higher for LPGA

It's hard being a woman. That's well known. You have to be twice as good as a man to get half as far. Ask Hillary.

But nowhere is the gender gap more blatantly exposed than in women's golf.

Consider this: There's a guy in the baseball Hall of Fame who has won 511 games, Cy Young. There is Walter Johnson, who won 416.

But then there is Dizzy Dean. He won 150. And Sandy Koufax--he won 165. Go figure.

There are guys in the Football Hall of Fame who threw for 40,000 yards. But there are others who didn't rack up half that many.

In women's golf, there is no latitude. There is an exact--and exacting--yardstick. Nobody gets in on a pass. Women's work is sun-to-sun here, too.

You have to have won 30 tournaments--and two of them have to be "majors"--to make the LPGA Hall of Fame. No substitutions, no exceptions.

If you don't think that's tough, have a look at the men's tour. Men's golf is probably a half a century older than women's. But only 15 golfers in all that time have won 30 or more tournaments. In fact, only 29 have won more than 20 tournaments. But there are plenty of guys in the Men's Hall of Fame--deservedly--who have never won 30 tournaments. Some who have never even won 20. Ralph Guldahl, for instance--16 victories. Julius Boros, 18. Jack Burke, 17. Doug Ford, 19. There are guys in there who have not won two majors. Dutch Harrison, for example. He never won any.

In tennis, the guidelines are less stringent. You don't have to have won Wimbledon. Ivan Lendl never did, but he'll be in its Hall. Bjorn Borg never won the U.S. Open, but he's there already.

The women get no break at all. You know how many players there are in their Hall of Fame? Thirteen. A baker's dozen.

Know how many guys are in baseball's Hall of Fame? Care to guess? Two hundred fifteen. And the Pro Football Hall of Fame requires the election of at least five every year. Even if, say, two of them don't get the required number of votes. They go in on the coattails.

Thirty tournaments is a nearly impossible yardstick, given today's hotly competitive tour. It's like requiring a batter to hit .400 every year--or at least for two years--or to have a lifetime average in the .350s or to drive in 200 runs. A football player would have to throw or catch 50 touchdowns a year, sack the quarterback 10 times a game or run for 3,000 yards a season.

Take the case of Patty Sheehan. She probably has the best golf swing seen on any tour since the young Gene Littler. She had won 29 tournaments up to this year--only 17 male golfers have won that many--including a U.S. Open and two LPGAs. She had won $3,591,290 (fourth-highest total in women's history) on the tour.

But was this Hall of Fame stuff? Nope. She had to win a tournament at Tucson this year to make it. If she had stalled at 29, she would never have become the 13th member of the Hall.

Unlikely that her inclusion would have been permanently put on hold? Well, consider the case of Amy Alcott. She has been one of the best players on any fairway since she joined the pros 18 years ago. Her dossier includes five "majors," including a U.S. Open and three Dinah Shores.

But she has stopped at 29 for two years now. That last one has become a carrot on a stick. Everywhere she goes, she is introduced as the woman who needs one more victory to make golf's Valhalla, not as the woman who has already won 29 tournaments.

Know how many tournaments you have to win if you fail to get any majors? Only 40. You know how many male golfers have 40 or more victories on their tour? Eight.

Not only do you have to win two majors, but they have to be different majors. Even if you win three Dinah Shores--as Alcott has--that counts as one major won in the Hall of Fame counting house.

It's the proverbial eye of the needle for entrance into golf's kingdom of heaven.

Beth Daniel, who has been the-one-to-beat on the LPGA tour since 1980, has "only" 27 victories. Moreover, only one of them was a major. That means she may have to get 35 victories for entry.

Patty Sheehan seemed more of a bet to get the Sam Snead or Arnold Palmer role in history at the 1990 U.S. Women's Open. Sheehan, like Palmer in the men's 1966 U.S. Open, had a commanding lead coming up to the back nine on the final day of play--seven shots.

You may recall that Palmer had seven shots at San Francisco's Olympic Club with nine holes to play. He blew it. Sam Snead had only to bogey the last two holes at the Open in Spring Mill in 1939. He took an eight on the 17th hole and a bogey on the last. He blew it.

And Sheehan threw her Open to the winds--and to Betsy King--in 1990. It was a crushing defeat. Palmer was never to win another Open; Snead never won one at all. And Sheehan admits that she was to have trouble sleeping the night before any tournament thereafter when she went to bed with a "safe" multi-shot lead. She had no desire to come into focus as the tour's goiter.

Then, last year, Sheehan came to the 17th hole of the last day of the U.S. Women's Open at Oakmont trailing Juli Inkster by two shots.

A downpour halted the tournament as they teed off. When they came back, 1 hour 50 minutes later, Inkster missed a 12-foot putt that would have given her the title. Sheehan sank a 10-footer and went to No. 18 one shot down.

Inkster then missed a 16-foot putt for a birdie and the Open. Sheehan made a 15-footer for the tie.

Patty Sheehan won the playoff by two shots. She got the monkey off her back.

Hall of Famer Sheehan is putting her honors on the line at the Nabisco Dinah Shore tournament down here at Mission Hills this week. As is so often the case in the aftermath of great achievement, Sheehan suffered a semi-letdown. She shot an opening-round 73. For anyone else on the tour, that would be a flag-raiser. For Sheehan it was a slump.

She was five shots out of the lead after round one. After round two, she was only three shots out.

She fell back in round three to go seven shots behind the leaders, her old nemesis King and the Canadian Dawn Coe-Jones and the Svenska Flicka Helen Alfredsson. Her 31st victory will have to be put on hold.

Still, winning a 31st tournament should be a box of candy to a young lady who had to win 30 merely to be considered a player.

At that, she may be lucky to have won it when she did. If others start to do it, they may change the requirements again. You may have to win 30 with two majors, swim the English Channel, run the 100 in 10-flat, climb the Matterhorn and cure the common cold. Woman's inhumanity to woman is alive and well on the golf circuit. Look at them penalizing the nearest thing they have to a superstar and legend, Nancy Lopez, two shots without warning.

Mother never said it would be easy. Let the men admit wimps if they want. A woman's place may be in the Hall. But she'll have to crawl through barbed wire and shellfire and rocks before they'll let her in.

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