NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Sports magazines have leveraged beauty for cover photos for years, but critics say this month's Golf Digest has taken it a step too far.
As CBS2's Steve Overmyer reported Friday, the magazine cover features LPGA pro Lexi Thompson topless, with a strategically-placed white towel draped over her shoulders.
At first glance, some said it is easy to confuse the publisher of the magazine.
"I wasn't sure if it was a Playboy ad, or if it was a Golf Digest ad," said PGA teaching pro Chance Scheffing.
Before the magazine cover, Thompson was most famous for jumping into a pond after a win. Now, she is trying to showcase the fitness level of golfers – without leaving a lot to the imagination.
"She's very fit," said Marjorie Jones, a former LPGA tour player who is now a top teaching pro at Chelsea Piers on the West Side. "She looks great. I'm a little jealous, to be frank. But you know, I got a lot of years on her, and you know, maybe if I looked like that, and I was playing a lot. I might do that too."
This was not the first time that looks have been leveraged to increase the profile of a player or sport. Just last month, Golf Digest featured a shirtless Rory McIlroy.
But some wonder where the line is to be drawn between sexism and the old adage that sex sells.
"I just think that this is a detriment to women, because I'd like to be recognized by being a good golfer; not about how my body looks like in the front page of a magazine," said golfer Morella Carta. "I think that if we allow this to happen, we will never get to the place where we should be."
Last year, the LPGA blasted Golf Digest's fitness issue for using Paulina Gretzky – a non-golfer. The LPGA released a statement to CBS2 about the Thompson controversy.
"The LPGA is glad to have its top players recognized among golf's greatest stars and we certainly feel they've earned the opportunity to grace the covers of prominent publications. Our players make the final decisions regarding their personal images and their comfort with positioning." the LPGA said in the statement. "Regarding the Golf Digest cover, we don't look at it any differently than that of past issues of ESPN The Magazine's 'The Body Issue' which have also showcased the fitness and athleticism of LPGA players."
Jones said: "As long as in there they have stuff about how good she is, if that's what's getting people to look, it doesn't bother me that much. Now if it was totally au naturel, that might bother me a little bit more."
Lexi Thompson is 20 years old. Golf Digest said the controversial cover was shot on a closed set with her mother in attendance to approve or discard any of the shots.
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