Female Golfer

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Annika Sorenstam has accepted her invitation to play in the men’s Professional Golf Association tournament in Fort Worth TX, and everyone and his uncle (excuse me, his aunt) has practically dropped their teeth over this wondrous occurrence.

Headlines range from "Let’s hear it for Sorenstam," to "She’s an inspiration," to "Why this Swede is u2018da woman’ of golf." If there has been a critical reaction to this phenomenon in the mainstream press, I have not heard about it.

Her first day 71 score (one over par) at the Bank of America Colonial was good enough to beat out or tie several of her male competitors. This set off even more paroxysms of self-congratulation and high-fiving amongst the politically correct sports commentators. According to one low-key journalist, this accomplishment "made golf fans around the world scream with joy." A commentator has even gone so far as to characterize Annika’s accomplishment "as one of the all-time greatest performances by a female athlete in any sport." There may be a glass ceiling in the business world (that is a bit of economic illiteracy that shall have to be discussed on another occasion), but the "grass ceiling" in athletics in general, and golf in particular seems to have been pierced.

Before we get caught up in the general hysteria, let us recognize a few worms in this particular apple. If females can enter male competitions on the grounds that they are just as good as men, then, based on this egalitarian "logic," the latter will no longer be able to be kept out of those that have previously been limited to women. After all, why have different sections of an athletic event, if there are no relevant differences? No one organizes special matches for left and right-handed people, for the blue eyed and the brown eyed, because these differences are not thought to be relevant to ability. If the internal plumbing of human beings is now likewise determined to be of no moment, competitively speaking, thanks to Annika’s marvelous accomplishments, why, then, there would be no reason to preclude males from female competitions. There would no longer be separate track and field, swimming, basketball, golfing or tennis leagues for men and women. In this one size fits all new world order, all separations between the LPGA and the PGA, between the NBA and the WNBA would disappear. Segregation, after all, is invidious.

But this would pretty much spell the death knell for women’s sports. With the possible exceptions of sports that call more for finesse than strength (think billiards, bowling, and, ok, maybe, golf), females would be all but frozen out of professional top-flight competition (and even here, it would be the rare woman who could effectively compete with men). In the present left wing feminist frenzy, this may not be readily apparent in basketball, tennis, soccer, baseball and other team sports. The two genders rarely if ever meet each other in sanctioned official matches. Although even here, there is some supportive evidence. E.g., the top speed for a male tennis serve is 149 mph; the female counterpart is only 127.4 mph. Yes, yes, (a young) Billie Jean King beat (an old) Bobby Riggs in a tennis match. This is just the exception that proves the rule.

However, there is a plethora of data, emanating from sports in which success can be measured objectively, which indicates that few or no women would be able to compete effectively against men. For example:

  • The high jump world record for men is 8’5"; for women it is only 6/10′.25. In contrast, the boys’ high school record is 7’6".
  • The best male long jump is 29’4.5"; the top female can do only 24’8". The long jump record in high school (male, of course) is 26’9.25".
  • The mile can be run by a male athlete in 3:43.1; a female takes 4:12.6; a high schooler can do this distance in 3:53.
  • The male record for the 100-meter run is 9.78 seconds, the female, 10.49; the high school record is 10.13.

Forget competing against world-class male athletes; the top women would not even be able to garner medals in a robust high school setting.

This pattern of male dominance holds true for all sports where a premium is enjoyed by possessing strength, speed and endurance. And in quite a few "sports" where it is not. For example, this applies to virtually all chess grandmasters.

These points are made not to demonstrate male superiority in athletics. Their dominance is so well established by the facts, that only hysterical left wing feminists (of both sexes) must be reminded of them. No. We take cognizance of them because of the danger to women’s sports, posed by allowing Annika Sorenstam to compete with men. If we are logically consistent, and allow the genders to play against each other in such environments, there will be (virtually) no athletic contests where girls and women will have any chance of victory.

In boxing and other martial arts, there are commonly weight divisions. This doesn’t mean that a pugilist weighing 120 pounds can never triumph over someone at the 190-pound level. We engage in such segregation because weight gives such a clear advantage to the heavier athlete, other things equal, that a match between two such competitors would be too one-sided. It would be boring to watch. Most people would consider it "unfair."

It is precisely the same with men and women.

(Statistics compiled by Dan D’Amico and Erich Mattei; the author assumes full responsibility.)

Dr. Block [send him mail] is a professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans. See his Autobiography Archive.

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