A Change of Course

They often call golf a “Gentlemen’s game”. Well, this time, the gentlemen and all the gentlewomen leading the organization got it right. The organization released a video on Monday, February 22, of one of its tour players, Madelene Sagstrom, sharing her story of surviving childhood sexual abuse.

Instead of dismissing it as a past event or fearing it as an incident that would negatively reflect the LPGA, the organization used it as a teaching moment. They saw it as an opportunity to have an open dialogue about an uncomfortable topic and a chance to implement more preventative resources for young girls and women on tour. This is a necessary change, of course. 

Ms. Sagstrom first shared her story with her mentor after struggling emotionally on the course. She asked for help. Utilizing great insight, her mentor asked her to examine this inner turmoil. It only took a question. One empathetic gesture from a trusted friend was what Sagstrom needed to disclose the sexual abuse she suffered as a child. Telling her story was not met with doubt, cynicism, or question. Instead, she was given support, care, and concern. This is a necessary change, of course.

Since that time, the LGPA has handled Ms. Sagstrom’s disclosure in precisely the manner it should, showing her great care and concern while also looking at the bigger picture. 

What resources could they put in place to support not only Ms. Sagstrom but all of its athletes?

The LPGA didn’t reinvent the wheel. They simply followed the SafeSport protocol (https://uscenterforsafesport.org/response-and-resolution/policies-and-procedures/) and worked with RAINN (https://www.rainn.org/) in preparing for the video’s release. Simple, but outstanding. A necessary change, of course.

The organization did not feel meeting minimum standards was nearly enough. Instead, the LGPA is also sharing resources with Girls Golf USA, including recommendations for protecting children from sexual abuse and recognizing signs of grooming and guidelines for social media safety. A necessary change, of course.

I spend many hours studying how organizations, educational institutions, athletic programs, churches, and corporations go to great lengths to cover up abuse. They feel that their reputation and income outweigh the physical and mental well-being of children: case and point, Larry Nassar of USA Gymnastics. After decades of calculated abuse, he was finally indicted in 2016. With the horrific details of his grooming and torture made public, one would assume USA Gymnastics would have made grand, sweeping changes to ensure this chronic abuse would never, ever happen again. 

You would think the leadership would implement accessible resources for the hundreds of girls they enabled Nassar to abuse. You would think, but you would be wrong—a pathetic, unethical course of non-action. 

Instead, USA Gymnastics has taken cues from monetary powerhouses like the Catholic Church by filing for bankruptcy. This measure is an effort to shield assets from brave survivors.  

The LGPA, on the other hand, has written its playbook. In turn, it has created a culture that will embrace and support survivors. A culture that does not enable the abuser but supports and listens to the abused. A culture that lets every athlete know, together, we can stand up to these monsters by merely standing with you—a necessary course of action and a promising path to the future.