This blog, despite its select and distinguished readership, is by its nature easy-osy and only someone with the patience to crack something like the Enigma code could dig deep enough – or, in more modern parlance, scroll down far enough – to unearth our media world ranking. So, our invitations are few and far between and rarely turned down, especially when they involve a visit to Woburn that includes dinner in the Sculpture Gallery and a round of golf.
Even when I was doing a lot of travelling there were always places that proved beyond me – Surrey and environs, for example. It didn’t matter how many hundreds of times I went to Wentworth, Sunningdale, The Berkshire, I was always relieved and slightly surprised if I got there first time, without any detours. Dai couldn’t understand it.
He had a very good sense of direction, apart from the time when he was doing his National Service in Singapore and managed to direct his landing craft, or whatever, to the wrong island; he wasn’t far out but it was just far enough to be critical; fortunately, it was an exercise and he didn’t lose his hard-won hofficer status. A man who once had a school report that stated, correctly, “Mathematics is a form of witchcraft to Davies”, had managed to absorb the workings of the internal combustion engine overnight and regurgitate it in his exam the next morning, thus moving up the ranks. As he left the exam room he couldn’t have told you enough about engines to save his own life let alone anyone else’s. Fortunately, he was now in charge of men who could.
Anyway, as I was negotiating the world famous roundabouts of Milton Keynes, another of my longstanding bugbears, in search of the hotel and trying not to panic – the bus that would take us to Woburn Abbey for dinner was departing shortly – I recalled Dai’s quip that I got 90 per cent of my 50-50 chances wrong. I laughed and relaxed and despite the added confusion of barriers being erected for the Rod Stewart concert the following night made it in time for the bus.
We were on parade for the media day to promote the AIG Women’s British Open, which takes place on the Marquess course at Woburn at the beginning of August (1-4). Georgia Hall, the defending champion, was on hand, along with Catriona Matthew, Europe’s Solheim Cup captain, who won the British at Lytham in 2009, just after the birth of her second child. Charley Hull, the Woburn local hero(ine), joined us late after being delayed by car trouble.
AIG, an American insurance company, has taken over from Ricoh as the championship’s title sponsor and the event is now under the auspices of the R&A after the merger with the LGU. There were plenty of women present but it was men who did the introductions and it got me thinking about weight of numbers and what happens to the minority when there are mergers, however well meaning; is it inevitable that they should be swamped? Woburn has a long and distinguished tournament history (irrespective of its history history) and it includes hosting the Ford Ladies Classic for many years, which wasn’t mentioned but should have been, not least because it gave British spectators their first look at Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb, who trained on to be golfing greats.
The R&A – and every other golfing body – talks endlessly about diversity and growing the game but it has to take a long, hard look at itself and ask itself just how diverse is it really? What we see at first glance is a bunch of white men in blazers. The only diverse thing about me as a white, middle-aged (well, ok, elderly) golfer is that I’m a woman, so in that respect I’m a minority. My skin colour, age and gender are an accident of birth, there’s bugger all that I can do about them (well, gruelling and expensive surgery apart) and the golf, while a choice, is more or less hereditary in my case.
Sporty girls – and boys – have a lot of choices these days and women’s football, cricket and netball are only three of the team sports that will be getting a fair amount of television coverage this summer. The Women’s Football World Cup starts in France today (Friday 7th June) and all the matches will be on the BBC (if I read the schedules right), a massive boost for any sport. England and Scotland are involved and the former think they’re among the favourites, despite losing to New Zealand in the build-up. Pony tails seem to be de rigueur for the players, which would have ruled me out immediately – hair with a natural curly kink didn’t lend itself to length. Group conformity strikes again? Discuss.
Catriona Matthew, ever thoughtful, recognises the challenges. “Golf and tennis used to be the stalwarts of women’s sports and we don’t want to be overtaken by netball, football and cricket. Golf’s got to keep working hard, keep pushing and keep itself at the forefront.”