By Bob Brookover
The Philadelphia Inquirer.
It has been a monumental week for women’s sports in this country.
Delran’s Carli Lloyd was singled out in a tweet from POTUS — that’s an acronym for president of the United States — and invited over to Barack Obama’s house along with her teammates after the U.S. women’s soccer team won its third World Cup on Sunday in Canada.
It was the most-watched soccer game in our country’s history, drawing 25.4 million viewers for the Fox telecast. The party that never ends continues Friday with a ticker-tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes route in Lower Manhattan.
The day after the World Cup victory, Serena and Venus Williams played against each other in one of the major tennis tournaments for the first time in six years.
Serena won at Wimbledon, which was not surprising. That she was joined in the quarterfinals by two other much younger American women — Coco Vandeweghe and Madison Keys — was unexpected and a good sign for the women’s side of tennis at a time when men’s singles players from our country have mostly disappeared from the map.
By Saturday afternoon, Serena could be one win from the most Grand Slam titles in the Open era and one win from completing a calendar-year sweep of Grand Slam events at the age of 33.
She is already the greatest player in the history of the sport. That’s men or women. She is chasing Steffi Graf’s record of 22 Grand Slam titles in the Open era.
Serena is supposed to be fading away at her age. Instead we watch to see how much more she can do. After beating her older sister, she said she plans to play for quite a while longer. Are 30 Grand Slam titles possible? Don’t bet against it.
Fifty-eight other American women have an opportunity to make their own bit of history this weekend at the Women’s U.S. Open at Lancaster Country Club, but they’re going to have to beat a cast of talented South Koreans and an Australian who is defying her age.
When the first-day leader board was posted, another Jersey girl had made some news. Marina Alex hails from Wayne, N.J., which is at the opposite end of the Garden State from Lloyd, but she was good enough Thursday morning to claim a share of the first-round lead with 40-year-old Australian Karrie Webb. They both shot a 4-under par 66. Thunderstorms prevented the full cast of 156 players from finishing the first round.
Alex, ranked 138th in the world and playing in just her second U.S. Open, did not enter this tournament with nearly the same expectations as the U.S. women’s soccer team.
“It’s hard to go into the Open with any expectations,” she said. “I was just going out there and . . . putting my best game together and this is what I got today. I’m very pleased with it.”
In all probability, Alex, 24, will tumble down the leader board before the weekend is over at this plush course of peaks and valleys that serves as a perfect symbol for what the winner of the tournament will have to endure.
Regardless of who wins, it’s safe to say that next week is not going to be nearly as good as this week for women’s sports in our country. It’s also fair to wonder how long the euphoria will last.
The discrepancy in prize money — the winner of the Women’s U.S. Open will receive $810,000, compared with the $1.8 million won by Jordan Spieth at last month’s men’s U.S. Open — has been well documented among all the sports, and that’s not going to change any time soon.
What does need to change is the amount of respect given to the women athletes in our country and around the world.
If you get a chance to go to this tournament, you will marvel at the ability of Inbee Park, the South Korean who has won five of the last 12 majors, and the game’s other top players.
Annika Sorenstam missed the cut by only 4 shots when she played at the PGA men’s Colonial in 2003, shooting 71 and 74, but she had to endure insults from male players Nick Price and Vijay Singh, who considered her presence nothing more than a publicity stunt. Hopefully, there will be less of that if Park or some other player gets a shot to play in a PGA tournament.
If we have learned anything in the last week, it should be that even if the elite women athletes are not quite as good as the elite men, they still provide great entertainment with their effort and talent.