I’m feeling very cross.
This is 2018 and we’re in the middle of Major season in golf. Three weeks ago the first US Senior Women’s Open was held at Chicago Golf Club and Dame Laura Davies put on a peerless display winning by ten shots. A couple of weeks ago we were enthralled by Francesco Molinari at Carnoustie. Last week we saw Tom Watson shooting his age round the Old Course at St Andrews in the men’s Senior British Open and this week I’m at Royal Lytham & St Annes for the Ricoh Women’s British Open, the fourth of the women’s five majors in the game. So, why am I cross?
It was impossible to see any coverage of Laura’s win – I certainly didn’t find any – and if you cannot come to Lytham, and do not have a Sky Sports package, the only sight you will have of the world’s best women golfers this week is a paltry hour on the BBC, squeezed in either side of midnight. Disappointed doesn’t begin to cover it.Then I picked up the September 2018 issue of Golf World magazine. There are 130 pages of informed, interesting and well researched pieces on golf. Two pages are on women’s golf – TWO! There is a huge section to help us all improve our games with tips and advice from 14 different professionals. How many female professionals are featured? You guessed it – none. And not a single article written by a woman either. I thought the clue was in the title – Golf World. Aren’t women part of the world? It’s really just Golf for Men, isn’t it?
All this is taking place at a time when the R&A have announced a Women in Golf Charter, stating their joint ambition with other members of the golf industry is to increase the numbers of women playing and working in the game. Quite how that fits in with having no golf on terrestrial television is a puzzle to me. Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A, is driving the initiative and promises “measures designed to achieve positive change”. They are planning to increase “overall investment in women’s, girls’ and mixed golf to £80 million over the next ten years”.
Then, last week, a Gender Equality Summit kicked off proceedings at the Ladies’ Scottish Open and Martin Gilbert, CEO Aberdeen Standard Investments and title sponsor of the tournament, was fulsome in his support, saying his company was “keen to see as much equality in sport as we can”.
This is all good news and hopefully not just all talk, yet when I look around me at our golf clubs, our TV coverage, our print journalism, I feel discouraged. Golf is so heavily stacked towards a white male demography and does not for one moment reflect the world we live in. The women’s game is not boring, it’s not inferior to the men’s and it is at least as entertaining. It is bursting with fabulous role models for us all.
On the plus side I was hugely cheered to learn this week about initiatives from England Golf and Irish Ladies’ Golf entitled Women and Girls’ Golf Week 2018 which celebrates females of all ages and their involvement in the sport. We can read inspiring stories of career women and volunteers and each day a new topic is covered culminating with a round-up on Sunday, the day the next Ricoh Women’s British Open Champion will be crowned. Go to the respective websites – englandgolf.org, golfnet.ie, ricohwomensbritishopen.com – and be inspired.
All this makes me realise how imperative it is for women’s golf to have more support from within the industry. We need more of the shakers and movers within the game shining a light on women in golf and giving our professional athletes the platform they deserve. More exposure will generate more interest and subsequent increased female participation at grass roots level can guide our sport to being more family friendly with all the attendant social and health benefits. The game needs to be grown from the top down as well as from the bottom up. These decision makers who are ignoring women’s golf and keeping our profile virtually non-existent wouldn’t get away with this behaviour in the boardroom nowadays.
I learned ten days ago that a three-time Solheim Cup player recently received a request from a club manufacturer to return the product that she wasn’t using. I could scarcely believe my ears! Could you imagine that request going to a three-time Ryder Cupper? Of course not! There really should be no place for these discriminatory practices that are still all around us. Women are no longer willing to be second-class citizens and that goes for us golfers too.
There’s still a huge mountain to climb, I’m afraid, but, crampons on, ice picks in hand, we’ll keep on going.