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Monday, February 17, 2003
Outside the Lines:
Colonial Revolution



Here's the transcript from Show 151 of weekly Outside The Lines - Colonial Revolution

SUN., FEB. 16, 2003
Host: Bob Ley, ESPN.
Reported by: Tom Rinaldi, ESPN.
Guests: Kathy Whitworth, member, LPGA Tour Hall of Fame; Ron Sirak, Executive Editor, Golf World; Ann Meyers, member, Basketball Hall of Fame; Nancy Leiberman, member, Basketball Hall of Fame

ANNOUNCER- Outside The Lines, February 16, 2003.

BOB LEY, HOST- Women competing directly against men. Through the years some of the best female athletes have done just that.

HORSE RACING REPORTER- How does it feel to be the first woman to win the Belmont?

JULIE KRONE, PROFESSIONAL JOCKEY- I don't think the question needs to be genderized, you know, I don't mind. But for anybody, I think it's wonderful.

LEY- This week, Annika Sorenstam, after a dominant LPGA season, announced she will play against the men of the PGA tour at the Colonial Invitational.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM, PRO GOLFER- I like challenges. I like to push myself. I like to work hard. And see how good I can be.

LEY- For Sorenstam, there is some risk.

TIGER WOODS, 34 CAREER PGA TOUR VICTORIES- I think if she goes out there and puts up too high of scores, then I don't think it's going to be -- I think it could be more detrimental than it's going to be any good.

LEY- Today on OUTSIDE THE LINES, Sorenstam's chances against the best male golfers and what her decision may mean for women's sports.

Golf is addictively frustrating and unpredictable. So that two or maybe four rounds of golf in several months may not truly prove what Annika Sorenstam can do against the men. But she knows she must test herself. Playing against men is one of the few ways left for her. In tennis, the Serena and Venus Williams sisters have their sibling rivalry to mutually elevate their games. Their combined nine Grand Slams singles championships and 15 finals appearances have arguably lifted the popularity of their sport above the men's. Sorenstam's brilliance has been singular into the relative obscurity of the LPGA tour. Her recent past is no prologue and certainly no guarantee when she tees off against the men in the Colonial in May.

But as Tom Rinaldi reports, it's the reason she has decided to invite the pressure and the scrutiny that will be at her shoulder every step of the way.

TOM RINALDI, ESPN CORRESPONDENT - For Annika Sorenstam, 2002 was a great year. For her peers it would have been a great career. Thirteen wins in 25 starts around the world. Eleven victories on the LPGA tour. A 68.7 average score per round, best in tour history. No golfer, including Tiger Woods, has won more tournaments than Sorenstam has over the last two years.

WOODS- I think she just wants to find out, you know, how good she really is and, you know, if the gap between women's golf and men's golf is that great or not that great at all. I think she's curious about that.

SORENSTAM- You're used to seeing me win tournaments, and now you're seeing something that I never did before. This is very unusual. Last time a woman played in a PGA event was, I believe, 58 years ago. But last time I won a tournament was two months ago.

RINALDI- In accepting a sponsor's exemption this week to play in the Colonial Golf Tournament in Ft. Worth, Texas, in May, Sorenstam will be the first woman to play in a PGA tour event since Babe Didrikson Zaharias did it in 1945. Why seek this challenge?

SORENSTAM- I like to push myself. I like to work hard. I like to see how good I be can. This is the ultimate test for me.

PHIL MICKELSON, 21 CAREER PGA TOUR VICTORIES- I think it's great. I think that -- I'm curious as anybody to see how the best LPGA player of today and possibly of all time will play against the men.

KIRK TRIPLETT, 1 CAREER PGA TOUR VICTORY- She has the skills to compete. So she can shoot the numbers. She's not afraid.

RINALDI- Sorenstam chose the Colonial because the 7,080-yard, par 70 golf course puts a premium on accuracy over power. She chose the course not because of the Hogan-rich history, but because it suits her strategy.

SORENSTAM- I got to pick a course that would help me to succeed. Colonial is a course -- I haven't played there. Obviously I've done some research. It's a lot of doglegs. It plays fast but firm. I get a lot of rollup with my driver. And it puts premium on the iron shots, which is my strength.

BOB TWAY, 7 CAREER PGA TOUR VICTORIES- Length is always important. But it may not be quite as important that week. You can get away there with hitting, for us, three woods or irons off the tees. So if she hit drivers, she would probably be in the same spots.

RINALDI - A credo in golf goes, you play against yourself first, against the course second, against the field last. At the Colonial, we'll be fixed on the last. On how Annika Sorenstam will do against the field. On how the woman will play against the men. How will she do? Tour players' speculation has been all over the course.

JACK NICKLAUS, 71 CAREER PGA TOUR VICTORIES- I've played a reasonable amount with Annika, and I'm impressed with her ability.

WOODS - It will be only great for women's golf if she plays well. I think if she goes out there and puts too high of scores, I think it is more detrimental than it's going to be any good.

TY VOTAW, LPGA TOUR COMMISSIONER- I don't agree with him. I think that just by being able to be in the fray and to stretch yourself, and to see how well she can do against that level of competition will provide a touch stone for a number of fans to continue to root for her.

SORENSTAM- Once I stand on the first tee, I'll stand there and do the best I can. And winning is not out of my mind. I'll be thinking about that.

JANICE MOODIE, 2 CAREER LPGA TOUR VICTORIES- I mean, well, if she finishes second, she gets a PGA tour card, would she leave us? Hopefully not.

MICKELSON- I think she'll definitely make the cut, and I think she'll finish around 20th, would be my guess.

SORENSTAM- I'll take that.

MICKELSON- How will I do at Colonial? I hope 19th or better. But I don't know.

RINALDI- Ultimately, Sorenstam's decision does not derive from grand agenda. If her star power reflects more light in the LPGA tour, it's a secondary benefit. The goal is not how high she can raise the women's banner. It's how well her score can go.

SORENSTAM- I see this as a great opportunity for me personally. This is -- you know, I'm not putting women's golf on a test here. I'm putting myself, this is a test for me, to see if I can play.

LEY- Sorenstam's decision effectively upstages Suzie Whaley, the Connecticut club pro who won a PGA sectional tournament from the women's tees and qualified for this year's Greater Hartford Open. Sorenstam's appearance will be two months before Whaley's. We say good morning now to Ron Sirak, the executive editor of "Golf World" magazine. He joins us from Stamford, Connecticut. Good morning, Ron.

RON SIRAK, "GOLF WORLD" MAGAZINE EXECUTIVE EDITOR- Good morning, Bob.

LEY- And we welcome Kathy Whitworth, a member of the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame. Seven times the LPGA player of the year. A former president of the LPGA and the holder of 88 professional championships. Kathy joins thus morning from Palm Beach, Florida. Good morning, Kathy.

KATHY WHITWORTH, MEMBER OF LPGA TOUR HALL OF FAME- Good morning.

LEY- Let me ask you. What do you think Annika can prove by playing in this tournament?

WHITWORTH- Well, I take Annika at her word when she says she's doing this for her own test to see how well she will stack up against the men. And she thinks she's going to learn a lot. I'm sure she will. And so I -- you know, whatever Annika wants to do, I think that's just great. It's going to be -- and I'm on Annika's side. I really think she's a great player. I'm a big fan of hers. And I support what she's doing. It is just -- I have some qualms about how it will reflect on the LPGA in general.

LEY- Explain that.

WHITWORTH- Well, I know that it's -- you know, it's exciting and I live in the Dallas area, and so when this broke it was a -- that's all you could hear about and read about was Annika. And that's great. And if it were just focused on Annika, but I'm afraid it's going to, you know, spill over into the LPGA. And my first concern was when I first heard that Annika was going to play -- might play, this is several weeks ago, might play in a men's event, I understand, and now I'm not speaking for Annika Sorenstam, this is just what I heard. But that she would not participate if it were in conflict with another LPGA event. And now she's playing at the Colonial, which I understand is in conflict with the Corning LPGA event in Corning, New York.

LEY- Well, let's take...

WHITWORTH- I just don't think that's a good idea.

LEY- OK, Ron, what do you believe? Is there potentially some damage to the LPGA? The commissioner has signed off on it.

SIRAK- I think the LPGA is already a winner. I think that they just had one of the greatest weeks for women's golf since Nancy Lopez's winning streak 25 years ago. More attention has been focused on women's golf this week than since 25 years ago. And that's only going to build. We've got three months to go to the Colonial. There is eight LPGA tournaments before the Colonial. More people are going to come out to the tournament that Annika plays in. She'll probably play in six of those eight. More are going to come out to see what she is about. More people will watch on TV. More newspaper editors will send their writers out to see what she's all about.

And it will just get more focus and more attention. And one of the things we learned from Tiger Woods, get people into the tent. They see the product. They'll come back. And it's happened on the PGA TOUR, even in events that Tiger doesn't play in, more people are coming back to watch golf. I think the same thing is going to happen here. She has focused an enormous spotlight on women's golf.

LEY- Kathy, how well do you believe she's strategized the decision to play at this particular course? You know the course.

WHITWORTH- Well, I think she picked a good golf course for her. And one of the comments that was made by -- I don't know, one of the people that were interviewed, was that the men like using three-irons and three-woods off the tee and Annika may be using the driver to get to the same landing area. Which is fine. So she can keep up off the tee. But when you're hitting in the same landing area, it means you're still going to go at -- the second shot still going to be at least two, maybe three clubs longer than what the guys are going to hit. So -- and those greens are pretty small.

And I just think that -- you know, I think Annika will do well. But it's still going to be a difficult chore for her. I mean she really can afford to make very few mistakes. And if she were to have a kind of a mediocre round the first day, it is very difficult for her to shoot a 65, say, the next day. And I know what Ron is saying about focus on the LPGA and the tournaments.

But then after that tournament is over, is this something that the LPGA has to look to now to garner attention to itself and -- I don't know if that's going to be a fair thing for our LPGA sponsors. Because now you may have other girls or other players that say, well, if Annika did it, I should do it. And it just takes away the attention from that sponsor that has worked for years to build up their tournament. And now all they're going to talk about is Annika playing at the Colonial.

LEY- Ron, who do you think she'll be playing against really, herself, the course, or the opponents?

SIRAK- Well, I think that she's playing against herself. She's a very, very focused person and I think that -- I truly believe that Annika's goal is going out there, are not so much as score or a place that she finishes, it's how she deals with the situation. And let's not overlook the fact part of the reason she's doing this is to make herself a better player. To deal with the enormous pressure that she's going to feel there.

And it's going to put pressure on a part of her game, her short game, that we're not -- that people haven't been talking about. She is going to have to chip and putt very well. I think that her idea of success is going to be something very, very intangible. It's going to be how she deals with the atmosphere and the pressure of the event.

LEY- All right. Ron Sirak, Kathy Whitworth, we appreciate you joining us this morning. And as we continue, we'll be talking about the issue of Sorenstam's decision in the context of women competing against men across the years. Everybody remembers Billy Jean and Bobby Riggs.

BILLIE JEAN KING- The woman's movement is really making a better life for more people, other than just women, and I feel strongly about it from that point of view.

LEY- Next, I'll talk to Ann Meyers, the only woman to try out for an NBA team. We'll also be speaking with Nancy Lieberman, the first woman to play against men in the USBL.

LEY - Women's sports can cross the gender line. Just this week Teresa Phillips made history coaching the Tennessee State men's team for one game.

TERESA PHILLIPS, COACHED TENNESSEE STATE MEN TEAM- If it makes some of those great women coaches who are out there risk putting their name in hats and actually pursue jobs on the men's side, if it does that, then that's going to be great.

LEY- Connecticut's record 62-game win streak is approaching the all-time mark of 88, by John Wooden's UCLA dynasty. The recent 800 victories of coach's Pat Summit of Tennessee and Jodie Conrad of Texas lift these women into the same circle of conversation as Dean Smith and Bob Knight. This is the landscape against which Annika Sorenstam will tee off against a field of men, thirty years removed from a stunt that grew into a social movement. A fit and ready Billy Jean King vanquished a middle aged Bobby Riggs. This battle of the sexes, along with Title IX, gave momentum to women's sports.

But still women have competed directly against men, stepping on to the gridiron as kickers. The 2001 Jacksonville State's Ashley Martin became the first woman to score in a Division I football game. Female jockeys have been riding since the late 1960s when Julie Krone became the first woman to win a Triple Crown race, the 1993 Belmont. Ila Borders made history as the first woman to pitch in a men's minor league game in 1997. She played parts of four seasons. Just this month Canadian Olympian Haley Wickenheiser became the first woman to score in a professional men's hockey game in Finland's second division. At least three women have been in goal for a men's pro-team, a barrier first broken by Manon Rheaume.

But few remember that four months before King's victory over Riggs, he dispatched Margaret Smith-Court in straight sets. And that same year LPGA hall of Famer Carol Mann was soundly defeated by Doug Sanders in a one-on-one match. Now it is Sorenstam against the course and the field, with history watching.

LEY- And we welcome this morning two basketball Hall of Famers, Ann Meyers, an all-American at UCLA and in 1979, she signed a $50,000 contract with the Indiana Pacers and attended a three-day rookie camp under Coach Slick Leonard, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and joins us from Boulder, Colorado. Nancy Lieberman is another Hall of Famer, an all-American at Old Dominion, growing up in New York. She took her game to the courts of Harlem and the Rucker League, and she played several seasons against men in the USBL. She joins us from Chicago.

Ann, let me begin with you. I know you both believe this is a good thing. Why do you think this is a good thing, which Annika has chosen to do?

ANN MEYERS, SIGNED WITH THE NBA INDIANA PACERS IN 1979- It's an opportunity. Somebody obviously has given her an opportunity and why not take it, and I think, run with it. The hard part, Bob, is that -- it's interesting how everybody's just going to base it on this one tournament. Give her a chance to play 10, 15 tournaments and see how she does, but I'm sure she plays against men all the time, and when she's out on the practice courses and in the celebrity things or whatever. But this is the microscope, though. It's definitely under the microscope. Everybody's going to be watching it. As Ron had said earlier, it's the outside effects as far as handling the pressure on what's going to happen.

LEY- What about that pressure, Nancy? You had it in the USBL, and of course we've seen you play in the Rucker League. What was it like?

NANCY LIEBERMAN, INDUCTED INTO BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME IN 1996- Well, I think it was a little bit different. Because you're having to deal with guys that's are 6'8, 6'9, their speed, their quickness, and their overall physicalness of the game.

But for Annika, she's going to be going up, as you know in golf, against the course. As -- I think as Ann said, it's her mental approach to what she's going to try and do. And can she handle all the elements that are going to be happening around her such as us talking about this historic event when it happens at the Colonial.

But I really think that this is a wonderful thing for women's athletics. Because she's measuring herself against people who are perceived -- that could be better. And it's just going to raise the level of women's golf and what they think they can do the same way that Ann and I competed against the guys. We knew that we had limitations because we were smaller than them. But it didn't mean our focus, our desire, and our heart were any less greater than the guys we play against.

LEY- So if somebody calls it a stunt, Nancy, what you would say?

LIEBERMAN- Well, I don't think it's a stunt. But I really do think that there is a lot of pressure on her to play in this one event, as Ann alluded to. If you give her the opportunity, and Phil Mickelson said this. He said, you know, when playing in a group with Tiger once, twice, two, three times gives you familiarity and it just allows you to play a little better and more relaxed. I think the more she gets a chance to play at this level and maybe picks a couple of events a year, I think it is going to be easier for her to kind of get acclimated to what her job is and raising her game.

LEY- Ann, you heard Phil Mickelson, she'll finish 20th, I hope to be 19th or better. What about -- and you played against NBA players in that Pacers' camp. What about the male egos of someone who is playing head up against a woman?

MEYERS- Well, things are a lot different than when Nancy and I tried out. For example in 1979, I mean ESPN was just starting. There is so much exposure as far as TVs and stations and the radios and the print media. And I certainly didn't have that when I tried out with the Pacers. I'm surprised you found that little clip that you did.

LEY- Yes, but -- you have to take the ball in on somebody, and there you are a woman.

MEYERS- Well, but see I grew up in a family of 11 children. My dad played basketball. My whole life I'd played basketball. So I had always played against guys. So what I was doing was nothing different, even though it was difficult for a lot of people to accept. So I had grown up on the playgrounds understanding different egos of the men. It was more difficult on the guys when I tried out because they were in a no-win situation. If I scored, ah, you let some girl score on you. If they stole the ball from me, it's no big deal, it was only a girl. But I had grown up with that, so I had understood how to deal with those situations, especially when I had gotten to that level. It was no big deal.

LEY- Nancy, how did you find the male ego when you were playing against them in the USBL?

LIEBERMAN- I think that when I played in the USBL, when I played with Lakers in their summer league in 1980, there was a healthy respect. They knew that I was trying to go against the odds. But if you respect one another, if you have a good work ethic, and in many cases, I would bet that Ann's skill level, my skill level and fundamentals of executing as we know the game or Coach Wooden would love the game, we probably had better fundamentals than a lot of the guys, and we could help them.

Certainly we didn't have the physical attributes as some of the guys we competed against, but I think that if you just relax, if you get out there, you embrace each other as teammates or competitors, I don't think it's a bad situation. Matter of fact, Pat Riley coached me with the Lakers, and he'll tell you today it was a great experience for him and a great experience for all the other guys that were my teammates.

LEY- They could probably use you with Miami right now. Where is the line though? How far can this go? We have female jockeys, in equestrian men would go, of course, they would go straight up women. But how far can this -- this phenomenon be extended?

MEYERS- Are you talking -- I don't know if it's a phenomenon. I just think that Annika is doing something she's been given the opportunity to. Obviously, there are people out there that feel she can compete on that level. And she's testing herself to be the best she can be. And isn't that what America is all about, is trying to be the best that you can be? And when do you have the opportunities, why do people try to put you down?

LEY- This will be a success if what happens, Nancy?

LIEBERMAN- I think it is going to be a success the minute she tees off, and she shows people that she can play at the highest level as she's already proven. And, you know what, the other thing, Bob, I think with Annika, she earns her living as an LPGA golfer. That's where she got her start, her fame, and her financial status. Why would she continue to want to play on the men's tour if she couldn't finish high up in the money? I think this is something just to keep her interest, for her to continue to raise the level of her game, and you're going to hear that all the time. And use it as a measuring stick, how good that she can be, ultimately she'll continue to be a star on the LPGA tour. And it will bring more and more exposure, you know, to that event that she's going to play in.

LEY- Ann, in one sentence, what piece of advice you could give Annika?

MEYERS- You have an opportunity of a lifetime. Don't look back and say, what if.

LEY- All right. Tremendous. Thank you, ladies. Ann Meyers, Nancy Lieberman, thank you for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

Next up, your thoughts on last week's conversation with NBA Commissioner David Stern, including his take on the LeBron James phenomenon.

DAVID STERN, NBA COMMISSIONER- It isn't so much whether or not he is ready to play in the NBA, the point that it makes is the sleazy point that you've got the situation of a high school that's taking it's games, putting them into 6,000 seat college area, putting it on Pay-Per-View.

LEY- Last week's look at the NBA and our conversation with David Stern covered issues such as on court issues, the WNBA selling a team to a gambling casino, and LeBron James and young players entering the league. And from our e-mail inbox, from Florence, Kentucky- "David Stern adds two games to the playoffs for review, adds teams to a dwindling talent base for revenue, and does just about anything for revenue. Furthermore, his comments about adults taking advantage of this 'kid' LeBron James goes to the heart of his league allowing 18-year-olds to come into it."

And from McGahyesville, Virginia- "David Stern showed me again this past week why I have stopped, and will never return to watching NBA Basketball. His league has become a joke, where the members in it are nowhere close to being professional, and his policy on ruling it is even worse. His claim that because everyone else does it, in terms of gambling, means we should do it, is ridiculous."

Those letters addressed online. The keyword OTLWEEKLY for our library of program transcripts going back three years. We look forward to your input on Annika Sorenstam. Our address, otlweekly@espn.com.