Tappen, Cornwell only 2 women in 92-player field at American Century Championship
Kathryn Tappen and Lisa Cornwell hugged and wished each other good luck Friday morning on the driving range just before starting the opening round of the 29th annual American Century Championship.
Tappen, an NBC reporter who covers hockey, football and the Olympics, among other sports, and Cornwell, a Golf Channel anchor, are the only women this year in the 92-player field.
Put another way: It is a men’s club this weekend at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
Natalie Gulbis, a Sacramento native and LPGA star, was scheduled to play but pulled out of the tournament just a few days before due to a family emergency. She was a top 10 favorite to give the men a run for their money and was scheduled to hit from the men’s tees.
“I’m honored to play in this … this is my third year doing it and this is the fewest women in the field so far, just me and Lisa,” Tappen said following her Friday morning warm-up on the range.
Cornwell, who caused a slight stir on Twitter a few days ago when she asked people their thoughts about male golfers receiving much higher tournament payouts than women, would love to see more females in the event.
“It would be great for the fans and especially good for the young girls out here to see more women inside the ropes,” Cornwell said following what she called an “awful” first round where she finished right where she started, with zero points. “I hear it all the time, ‘girl power, we’re cheering you on.’ I think for that purpose, especially for younger girls, it may inspire them. I ask the girls every time I stop and give an autograph, if they play golf, and a lot of them do. That is great to hear that they’re out here watching golf and wanting to interact and maybe someday compete and do their own thing.”
Tappen heard similar things during a practice round earlier in the week. She had several girls approach her and ask for photographs and autographs.
“Maybe they didn’t even know what I do for a living, but loved seeing a woman out here, and that meant the world to me,” Tappen said. “I think it’s important to have some kind of female presence out here at this tournament. Yes, I am clearly outnumbered, but it’s gonna be fun.”
Tappen and Cornwell both cover male dominated sports — a reality that has familiarized them with being the only women in a sea of men. Cornwell grew up playing golf with the boys and founded a college football show that she hosted. Tappen covers hockey and football. Neither are strangers to locker room talk.
“It feels like a boys’ club around here for sure,” Tappen said. “I’m used to being surrounded by men with what I do for a living and the big personalities … and in our players’ meeting there was a lot of testosterone in that room, a lot of Type-A personalities, but I’m not overhearing anything I don’t normally hear.”
Both Tappen and Cornwell feel welcomed by their fellow competitors.
“The guys treat you like one of their own,” Cornwell said. “I am glad I am one of two representing women, but hopefully as the years progress we’ll get more women involved, but right now the guys are so great that it really doesn’t feel like I’m isolated.”
Despite the massive gender disparity, both women say they feel welcomed at the tournament.
“It’s so beautiful here and the fans are great,” Tappen said. “It’s fun, there’s so much energy. Obviously none of us play on a pro field so you get to feel like a pro golfer for a bit. It’s neat.”
“I love it here,” Cornwell said while staring out at Lake Tahoe behind hole No. 9. “Unfortunately, I get here for the tournament and it’s a rat race. We stay really busy with the schedule. Every year I say that I’m gonna get here sooner or stay longer and I never do. But I look at this, I’ve never even been on the water. One of these days I’ll make a point to do it. I’d also love to come here in the winter. I’ll bet it is breathtaking.”