Paulina Gretzky
LPGA Tour pros Stacy Lewis and Juli Inkster spoke out against Golf Digest's decision to feature Paulina Gretzky, a model, on the cover of it's May fitness issue. Reuters

Several female professional golfers are disappointed in Golf Digest’s decision to feature Paulina Gretzky on its latest magazine cover.

Gretzky appears on Golf Digest’s May fitness issue, wearing a sports bra and yoga pants. However, the 25-year-old connections to the game are cursory—she considers golf to be one of her favorite hobbies, and is currently dating PGA Tour star Dustin Johnson, but has no professional experience.

As a result, several LPGA Tour pros have questioned the magazine’s decision to feature Gretzky, rather than a professional athlete, on its cover. “It’s frustrating for female golfers,” Stacy Lewis, a two-time major title winner, told the New York Times. “It’s kind of the state of where we’ve always been. We don’t get respect for being the golfers we are.”

“Obviously, Golf Digest is trying to sell magazines,” she added. “But at the same time you’d like to see a little respect for the women’s game.”

Juli Inkster, who has won 31 LPGA Tour events over her professional career, was featured on Golf Digest’s cover in 1992. In an interview with the Times, she was equally critical of the Gretzky cover.

“It’s frustrating because it’s Golf Digest; it’s not Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue,” she said. “I think they should maybe recognize some of the great women golfers that we have. It’s like, What do you have to do to get a little respect? I’m guaranteeing you right now, it was not a woman editor who chose that cover.”

Despite its critics, this isn’t the first time that Golf Digest has featured a woman on its cover who isn’t a professional golfer. As Deadspin notes, model Kate Upton posed alongside golf legend Arnold Palmer for its December 2013 issue.

In a recent blog post, entitled “What’s Paulina Gretzky doing on the cover of Golf Digest,” Sam Weinman, the magazine’s web editor, offered a defense of Gretzky’s cover appearance.

“Last we checked Paulina Gretzky hasn’t earned her tour card, and the promising golf swing we saw on video earlier this year still isn’t one we’re holding up as the ideal,” he wrote. “Nonetheless, 25-year-old Paulina, daughter of hockey great Wayne, fiancée of PGA Tour star Dustin Johnson, is a certified celebrity within the golf wolf, as much a subject of fascination at tournaments as the guy she’s there watching.”

Jerry Tarde, Golf Digest’s editor-in-chief, offered a similar explanation. “Sports figures, celebrities and models have appeared on Golf Digest covers since the magazine's beginning,” he said. “Paulina ranks at the high end of the golf celebrity scene today, and she has a compelling story to tell. She also might get some new people interested in the game."