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Paulina Gretzky's controversial Golf Digest cover

By Breeanna Hare, CNN
updated 10:12 AM EDT, Sat April 5, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Golf Digest's new issue featuring Paulina Gretzky has sparked questions
  • Gretzky does not play the sport professionally, but is engaged to a pro golfer
  • It's left women in the sport frustrated by the lack of recognition

(CNN) -- Model Paulina Gretzky isn't a pro golfer but she's made it onto the cover of the latest issue of Golf Digest.

The controversial move has left some women in the sport frustrated as the magazine defends its position.

Golf Digest, which bills itself as "the authority on how to play, what to play and where to play," has explained that as the fiancée of PGA Tour pro Dustin Johnson, Gretzky is a major celebrity in the golf world and thereby qualifies the recognition of a cover story.

"Sports figures, celebrities and models have appeared on Golf Digest covers since the magazine's beginning," the publication's editor in chief, Jerry Tarde, says in a statement. "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."

Wired magazine has published a cover photo of NSA leaker Edward Snowden holding the American flag in both of his hands, as if protecting it from the government. Click through the gallery to look at some other controversial magazine covers through the years: Wired magazine has published a cover photo of NSA leaker Edward Snowden holding the American flag in both of his hands, as if protecting it from the government. Click through the gallery to look at some other controversial magazine covers through the years:
Controversial magazine covers
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Controversial magazine covers Controversial magazine covers

But to some members of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, choosing Gretzky -- who, yes, is the daughter of hockey great Wayne Gretzky -- means a female pro golfer is getting overlooked.

"It's the state of where we've always been. We don't get the respect for being the golfers we are," Stacy Lewis, a top-ranked American golfer, has told press, according to USA Today. "Obviously, Golf Digest is trying to sell magazines, but at the same time you like to see a little respect for the women's game."

In the Golf Digest piece, Gretzky discusses her involvement in the sport and demonstrates six golf-improvement exercises. On the cover and in two of the photos used to promote the issue, which is available via tablet starting April 8 and from newsstands starting April 15, she doesn't wear the typical golf attire but rather fitted workout pants and a sports bra.

Golf Digest appears to have anticipated the reaction to the cover, as it already has an answer to the question, "What's Paulina Gretzky doing on the cover of Golf Digest?" up on its website.

The response falls in line with what editor Tarde says in his statement: given the fact that Gretzky is "as much a subject of fascination at tournaments as the guy she's there watching," combined with the fact that "she's an attractive, fit woman who -- like many of our prospective readers -- is fairly new to golf ... she seemed a natural cover subject for our second annual issue devoted to fitness."

That position seems to answer the query veteran golfer Angela Stanford has asked: Who, exactly, is Golf Digest trying to sell to?

"If the answer is men 25 years old through 45 years old, then I guess that's what they have to do," she told USA Today. "You know the old saying, sex sells. And nobody can argue with that. It's just the way it is. But the LPGA has some attractive women and very fit women, so why not use them? I'm just baffled by it."

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