Commentators for the Golf Channel are facing backlash online for “body shaming” New Zealand professional golf player Lydia Ko at the ANA Inspiration, one of the five major championships in professional women’s golf.
Julia Inkster, a seven-time major winner and World Golf Hall of Famer, was serving as a guest commentator for the Golf Channel when she said 21-year-old Ko “looks like she needs to go to the buffet counter a little bit.”
Golf Channel analyst Judy Rankin, a former professional golf player, added, “We all want to see five more pounds on Lydia.”
“She can five of mine,” Inkster replied. “That’s one thing I’m an all-star at and that’s eating.”
The brief exchange on Ko’s weight during the live second-round broadcast quickly drew criticism online. “Omg I can’t believe that [Julie Inkster] just said that Lydia Ko needs to hit up the buffet & Judy Rankin just said she needs to put on 5 more pounds,” wrote one upset Twitter user.
Omg I can’t believe that @JuliInkster just said that #lydiako needs to hit up the buffet & #judyrankin just said she needs to put on 5 more pounds. So much for the #driveon message from @LPGA #wow #unbelievable
— Penny Jacko (@PAAJacko) April 5, 2019
The user went on to note the irony of the comments, which she believes goes against the Ladies Professional Golf Association’s (LPGA) newly announced brand motto to “Drive On.”
“[Our sponsors, players and fans] see our athletes as positive, visible leaders and role models who represent the important values of diversity, authenticity, a commitment to excellence and fierce determination,” reads a statement released in March 2019 on LPGA’s website. “And they appreciate our nearly 70-year track record of “driving on” to break barriers and provide opportunities for women.”
LGPA has not yet responded to Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment.
Meanwhile, another user called out Inkster, writing, “Your comment that Lydia Ko should ‘step up to the buffet’ was disgusting — so much for accepting people for who they are, body image, and women’s self esteem.”
Inkster responded to the criticism by attempting to downplay the comments, explaining they had been made “in fun.”
“I kid her all the time … don’t take thing so seriously… We r a family out here. We care for each other,” Inkster replied to one user’s tweet. Yahoo Lifestyle reached out to both Inkster and the Golf Channel for comment; both have yet to respond.
Other users came to Inkster’s defense, saying that the comments made by her and Ranker on air weren’t body shaming, citing similar comments made about players in other sports. “Does it count as body-shaming if a rugby coach says a player needs to bulk up?” one Twitter user pointed out. “If not, then why so for Ko?”
— Mark Thomson (@markmthomson) April 6, 2019
The Korean-born golf player was reportedly on a new cardio routine in 2018 that left her 15 pounds lighter, Golf Week reports.
At the time, Ko explained that she had begun to go to the gym and do more pilates to become leaner and cut down on fatigue at the end of each season.
“I don’t feel bloated, which I think is a huge thing,” she told Golf Week. “I’m trying to gain more muscle and lose a bit of the unnecessary fat. Everybody seems like they are hitting it longer and longer.”
At 17 years old, Ko made history when she became the No. 1 female professional golfer in February 2015, making her the youngest player both male or female to hold the coveted spot. Although she held No. 1 rank for 108 weeks, Ko has since struggled to pull in wins. She has since dropped to No. 15 according to the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings.
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