The ShopRite Classic doesn’t tend to get too many headlines but this year the organisers have changed all that by spicing things up on social media.

The tournament is leaving the final place in the field up to a Twitter vote with four players all vying for one spot. The quartet are all pros from all around the world so that all sounds OK, yes?

Except the four players have been picked on their ‘social media analytics’ which is another way of saying they are all good-looking and happy to show off those looks.

There’s not much point trying to dress it up any other way with talk of a high finish here or there – Golf Channel’s Blair O’Neal, India’s Sharmila Nicollet, Scotland’s Carly Booth and Bolivia’s Susan Benavides were all picked for their huge social media presence which is a by-product of their appearance.

While it is a clever publicity stunt, with everyone having some sort of opinion on it, it doesn’t reflect brilliantly on women’s sport with a bikini shot possibly giving a player the edge over the next eligible player who might have 10 times their ability, just not their looks.

But while everyone is understandably up in arms we should remember that this isn’t a new thing with sponsors handing out invites every week where often the poster girls will be at the top of the pile.

Talk to plenty of tour pros and they will struggle for invites, sponsorship or column inches because they don’t look a certain way or speak a certain language. None of this makes the ShopRite stunt any more acceptable but they’re no different to plenty of others in the game or any sport.

ShopRite say: “For the naysayers, if we get 10 million new eyeballs, that’s not only good for the winner but for the 143 other players.”

I wonder how many of those players will think like that.

Mark Townsend

Been watching and playing golf since the early 80s and generally still stuck in this period. Huge fan of all things Robert Rock, less so white belts. Handicap of 8, fragile mind and short game

Handicap: 8

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