Being a dozy, birthday-celebrating so-and-so who doesn’t look too far ahead (you don’t need to be a soothsayer to know that chess grandmaster is not a title I’m destined to hold), last week I failed to appreciate that there’s a bit of a flaw in the choice of date for the re-arranged Curtis Cup. To recap, it’s now scheduled for 3rd-5th September at Conwy GC in north Wales. Sounds OK, you might think. And I, who didn’t think, thought no more about it. Until I read Alistair Tait’s blog (alistairtaitgolf.com) on the subject earlier this week.
Turns out that there was a rather big event already in the diary for that very same week. Admittedly, it’s in Toledo, Ohio but the Solheim Cup, for that’s what it is, is unarguably the biggest team event in women’s golf. What? No way! Must be some mistake, surely? A misprint? But no, it’s a clash that beggars belief or, at the very least, makes one despair that all the grand words about supporting and growing the women’s game are just so much guff.
Those of you keeping a closer eye on Twitter will have seen that Catriona Matthew, Europe’s Solheim Cup captain, responded quickly and tweeted, “This is terrible news for potential players who would also be eligible to play in junior @solheimcup2021, don’t understand why you would make this a conflicting date @TheSolheimCup.”
The junior Solheim Cuppers are some of the best amateurs in Europe and America and there’s no doubt that there’ll be some British and Irish players in contention for a place on the team in Ohio. And what about the Americans? There’s no way the players can be in two places at once and it’s invidious to expect them to choose one or the other. Both events are a life-enhancing, week-long celebration of all that’s good about the game, with friendships forged above and beyond the competitive rivalry. They are special.
If the Curtis Cup is to go up against anything, why not choose a men’s event? Pretty well anything but the Solheim Cup.
Heaven knows, scheduling at the moment is an absolute head-scratching, mind-boggling, date-shifting conundrum, with the Olympics, Ryder Cup (probably) and numerous championships having to move from 2020 to a 2021 that already had big events – like the Solheim and Presidents Cup (a biggish gig if biennially uncompetitive) – in place. But to opt for playing the Curtis Cup at the same time as the Solheim (and don’t nitpick about time differences, please)? Beyond baffling. Did Conwy not have another week to offer? Did they refuse to move the club championship? Was all the accommodation already booked for the summer? Will we be sold a sop and told it’s a week to celebrate the women’s game?
Granted, the R&A, the USGA, the professional tours and every golfing body are now trying to squeeze gallons, let alone quarts, in to pint pots but, but, but……
I’ve been trying to keep calm during lockdown, doing a bit of tai chi; enjoying the simple things in life; learning to be a bad birdwatcher with Simon Barnes (yes, the golf disparager in chief); walking Alice; looking more closely at the insects and plants – weeds welcome – in my garden, inspired by Mary McKenna’s (yes, that McKenna, she’s becoming as good a photographer as she was a golfer) wonderful pictures of her home patch; I’m back playing a little bit of gentle golf; and I haven’t been stressing about things I can do nothing about.
But the more I ponder this decision, the more the eyes go heavenwards and the dander likewise.
I’m not quite as incandescent (is that being older and/or wiser?) as I was 20 years ago when the USGA scheduled the US Women’s Open, the supposed jewel in its women’s crown, unarguably the biggest women’s event in world golf, against the Open. Not just any old Open but THE MILLENNIUM OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP AT ST ANDREWS……Spit, stomp, scream, screech; it was unedifying, I confess, even though it was, mostly, in private. That was in the days when I went to the US Women’s Open but that year it was thrown away, treated with contempt by the people who were supposed to safeguard and promote it….The incomparable Karrie Webb won it, I think but there was only one gig in golf that week.
My list of possible topics for the blog this week also included the suggestion, floated by Rob Parker on Deadspin.com, that, in the light of Black Lives Matter and related debates, a certain event in Georgia should stop being The Masters and revert to a version of its original title: The Augusta National Invitation Tournament. After the initial spluttering I began to think that that wasn’t such a bad or daft idea. After all, Bobby Jones wasn’t too keen on the rather grandiose Masters title in the first place and there have been lots of namealikes since – Dunlop Masters, Australian Masters, Visa Taiheiyo Masters and so on and on. It’s undoubtedly become a brand and there’s bound to be money involved, on a large scale but now that the tournament has gone beyond mega, reverting to a slightly more modest, geographically specific name might elevate it to another level again…..
Funnily enough, Horton Smith, who won at Augusta in 1934 and 1936 and was president of the PGA of America from 1952-1954, has just been disowned by the PGA. The Horton Smith Award, which honoured a PGA member for outstanding contributions to professional education, has been renamed the PGA Professional Development Award.
Smith was one of many who supported the Caucasians only clause that was in the association’s bylaws from 1934 until 1961 and Suzy Whaley, the current president, explained their decision: “In renaming the Horton Smith Award, the PGA of America is taking ownership of a failed chapter in our history that resulted in excluding many from achieving their dreams of earning the coveted PGA Member badge and advancing the game of golf.
“We need to do all we can to ensure the PGA of America is defined by inclusion. Part of our mission to grow the game is about welcoming all and bringing diversity to the sport. With the new PGA Professional Development Award, we will recognize effective inclusion efforts and honor those across our 41 PGA Sections who continue to promote and improve our educational programs. We look forward to doing more of both as we move forward.”