Sorenstam entering male golf domain teed men off

Wednesday, June 4, 2003 at 1:00am

A lot of middle-aged white guys are teed off because Annika Sorenstam got to play golf in a recent PGA event. At first, I couldn't figure out the angst. Surely, Sorenstam is nicer to look at than most of these golf guys who often dress in green pants and yellow shirts. Are there no mirrors in the clubhouses?

I mean, here's a trim young woman walking around smiling and hitting the ball. So what's wrong with that? Well, there's plenty wrong with it, as I found out.

Based upon dozens of conversations with male golfers who take their hobby very seriously, I can now report that Sorenstam's foray into the world of men's golf was looked upon as an intrusion into the very essence of maledom. The guys sense a threat to their fairway hegemony, and they don't like it one bit. Let's take it step by step.

Golf is boring; there's no question about it. You just whack a little ball and drive the cart and whack the ball and drive the cart. I'm sure you get the picture. But while driving and whacking, guys talk. And what they say is not meant for women to hear. The entire golf dynamic in the United States is built around guys yakking amongst themselves, much like the ladies' lunch deal. And trust me, most American women do not want guys at their lunch table, even if they do happen to be Swedish.

So it really wasn't about Sorenstam's golf game; it was about Sorenstam being on the course at all. Once the dam breaks, many guys feel that women will swarm the tees, and all macho camaraderie will cease. The golf course is a refuge for the beleaguered American man who has to behave at home, at work and most other places. Out on the fairway he can curse and tell dirty jokes. He can scratch and snort and scream, and then drink what he wants in the clubhouse bar. He gets out of the house for five hours, and nobody's giving him directions in the golf cart.

So Sorenstam ran into a male cultural buzz saw that I believe she's clueless about. In Sweden, it's too cold to play golf most of the year. But here in the United States, the golf course is a primary male sanctuary. Even though some women have succeeded in taking up the sport, the guys generally don't like it. You think Bill Clinton wants Hillary on the green with him? You think George W. wants Laura in the cart? Well, they don

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