Question: Now that Rochester’s own soccer superstar, Abby Wambach, and golf superstar Yani Tseng have been honored by the Women’s Sports Foundation, which one will be named the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year? Actually, make that which one should be named the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year?
Wambach is an incredible athlete. If she were a man, she’d be an all-pro in either the NFL or the NBA, or maybe in both. No doubt, she is the best female soccer player in the world. She scored four goals during the World Cup in Germany, including perhaps the most famous header ever, which tied the match against Brazil with less than a minute to play, setting up the U.S. victory on penalty kicks.
Tseng, meanwhile, has been by far the most dominant player in women’s golf this year, already winning seven LPGA tournaments with more to play. And at age 22 she became the youngest player in LPGA history to win five major championships. She ran away with the Wegmans LPGA Championship at Locust Hill CC in June, then won the Women’s British Open in July.
So whattaya gonna do, AP? Flip a coin? Spread out a deck of cards, have Wambach and Tseng pick one apiece and give the award to whoever draws the highest one? Play eeny, meeny, miny, moe? Throw up your hands and just have Abby and Yani tie for No. 1?
It won’t be an easy decision, but maybe I can help: Make Abby the first individual soccer player to win your award since it began in 1931—80 years ago! Yeah, I know, for decades soccer was mostly a sport played on other continents, but that is no longer true. Soccer (“futbal”) has grown to be huge in our country, especially since Mia Hamm and Wambach hit the pitch.
In case you’ve lost count, 28 female tennis players and 23 golfers have won your Female Athlete of the Year award. The U.S. women’s soccer team won it collectively in 1999 after capturing the World Cup.
Golf is the greatest game in the world. Humans can play golf almost as soon as we can stand up and almost as long as we’re alive, yet it is a sport no one can conquer. The greatest players in the world hit bad shots they can’t believe, and even the slightest swing error can lead to a lost ball 200 yards away. On the green, putting comes and goes like appetite. A golfer might make everything today and be unable to put the ball in a water bucket tomorrow.
So why not name Yani Tseng the 2011 Female Athlete of the Year?
The truth is that you don’t have to be a good athlete to be an excellent golfer. Oh sure, it might help, but it isn’t a must. Even if a guy is so overweight he hasn’t been able to see his feet in years while standing up, he can still play the game well. If you don’t believe it, ask John Daly, who looked as if he was about eight months pregnant when he won the British Open in 1995, then had surgery and lost about 80 pounds.
If you disagree, may I suggest you go to the nearest golf driving range, hit a bucket of balls, grab a hot dog and a beer, and then go play nine holes.
The next day, buy a soccer ball and find the nearest soccer or football field, then run up and down it 10 or 12 times, trying to control the ball with your feet and stopping for only five or 10 seconds at a time. Oh, and be sure to bring your cellphone so you can call for help if you almost pass out.
Bottom line: Soccer is infinitely more physically demanding than golf.
Am I am prejudiced because Abby Wambach is one of ours? Sure. And she is 31, so her professional soccer career probably doesn’t have many years left. Many professional golfers, though, don’t hit their stride until they’re past 30.
Tseng, 22 years young, is a class act, and watching her at the Wegmans LPGA Championship was amazing. She was 19 under par and blew away the field, beating runner-up Morgan Pressel by 10 strokes. Tseng is a small woman but leads the LPGA in driving distance with a 267.9-yard average. Her scoring average, 69.38, is No. 1. Her birdie average, 4.83 per round, is No. 1. Her rounds-under-par percentage, .739, is No. 1. Add it all up and she’s the leading money winner with $2.87 million and change.
Given that Tseng has no-telling-how-many great golf years ahead of her, should their age difference have any influence on the AP’s choice? Probably not, but I hope it does.
Regardless, Abby Wambach is my 2011 Female Athlete of the Year!
Rick Woodson’s column appears each Thursday on the Rochester Business Journal website at www.rbjdaily.com. His book, “Words of Woodson,” is available at www.authorhouse.com/bookstore. Listen to his weekly program, “The Golf Tee,” at 9 a.m. Sunday on WHTK-AM 1280 and FM 107.3.10/28/11 (c) 2011 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail email@example.com.