"Obviously, we're disappointed and frustrated by the editorial direction (and timing) Golf Digest has chosen with the announcement of its most recent magazine cover," Whan said in a statement at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the tour's first major tournament of the year.
"If a magazine called Golf Digest is interested in showcasing females in the game, yet consistently steers away from the true superstars who've made history over the last few years, something is clearly wrong. ... 'Growing the game' means a need for more role models and in these exciting times for women's golf, the LPGA is overflowing with them."
The cover photo shows Gretzky in skintight capris and a bra.
Known for provocative pictures on her social media accounts, Gretzky is former hockey star Wayne Gretzky's daughter and PGA Tour player Dustin Johnson's fiancee.
Former LPGA Tour star Lorena Ochoa in 2008 was the last female pro to appear on the magazine's cover. Golf Digest featured Golf Channel's Holly Sonders in May 2013 and model Kate Upton posed with Arnold Palmer for the December issue.
"It's frustrating for female golfers," third-ranked Stacy Lewis said. "It's kind of the state of where we've always been. We don't get respect for being the golfers that we are. Obviously, Golf Digest is trying to sell magazines. But at the same time you'd like to see a little respect for the women's game."
Jerry Tarde, Golf Digest's editor in chief, released a statement about the cover.
"Sports figures, celebrities and models have appeared on Golf Digest covers since the magazine's beginning," Tarde 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."
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