Quite a few years ago now I played golf with a good friend at Handsworth in Birmingham, home club of the sainted, much-garlanded Bridget Jackson. We were about half way round when he said, slightly shamefacedly (though I may have misinterpreted his expression): “You know, you’re the first woman I’ve ever played golf with…..”
“Oh, really?” I said, fairly non-committally but really I was thinking: “Blimey, how odd is he? Weird.”
In my defence, growing up, all the men I knew had played golf with women – well, girls, females of the species – so I’d thought nothing about it; it was just the natural order of things. Maureen and I played with Dad and his friends in matches where no quarter was given and concessions were rarer than hen’s teeth. And they could have taught Stephen Potter a thing or two about gamesmanship. That training has come in useful in matches where the opponent’s attempts at putting you off are so pathetically unsubtle and crude that they almost work because you’re laughing so much…
I mentioned Stephen Potter to a friend earlier this week and she looked blank, she’d never heard of him. Back in the day his manuals on gamesmanship, oneupmanship and golfmanship were required reading – not only for the sneaky ploys and gambits they detailed but also for the laughs and acute observations on the human condition. See if you can root them out and enjoy their evil genius. They’re still funny and I had to exercise considerable self-restraint to stop reading after last night’s photo shoot.
Potter does talk a little bit about mixed golf, mainly of the foursomes variety but I suspect that he could have written a whole book about the subject if he’d put his mind to it. Annika Sorenstam and Henrik Stenson are hosting the Scandinavian Mixed, a tournament for men and women, at Bro Hot Slott Golf Club in Stockholm for three years from June 2020. It’s co-sanctioned by the European Tour and the LET and is yet another noble effort to persuade people that golf is for everyone.
It is, of course but after the Handsworth revelation, I started paying more attention and realised that my mate was not alone. It dawned on me that a vast majority of men had never played golf with women and, in fact, many – if not most – of them regarded us as a completely alien species, especially if we pitched up on the fairways. Not so long ago one of our male members, unforgivably, told one of our older women members, who was just out for a quiet 9 holes with her friends, that she shouldn’t be on the course at all. I’m not sure that she’s played since. Unfortunately, she didn’t discover his name so he got away with the sort of bullying that should be completely unacceptable and beyond the pale. He deserved a suspension.
At Whittington we women have our competition day on a Tuesday and the tee is booked until 1130. The men, most of whom play most days, are massing well before then, pawing the ground, anxious to be off and doing their very best to intimidate the women out last – usually the older members who are just out for 9 holes. Do the men give them a decent start and leave them in peace, secure in the knowledge that they only have to restrain themselves for 9 holes? Do they buggery. Their behaviour is rude and discourteous in the extreme and they should be ashamed of themselves.
I’m thinking of booking the last tee time from now on….
All this is leading up to the sad admission that the Seniors beat – well, mangled more like – the Ladies’ Captain’s team in our annual match on Monday. We’ve tried tinkering with the format but they almost always win – I think we’ve had one halved/tied/drawn match – and this time our last pair prevented the whitewash by halving their match. Those of us who’d been hammered were cock-a-hoop! Phew. Humiliation only. Not total annihilation. We played better ball stableford matchplay, with the men playing off their card and us playing off ours. In the past that had proved quite an equitable system, with most of the matches quite close but there wasn’t much close about the latest encounter. The only conclusion to draw is that we didn’t play well enough!
The next day, it was the Ladies’ President’s team versus the Ladies’ Captain’s team and that was a draw! It was also historic in its way because, if the new club constitution is passed, there won’t be another ladies’ prez; it’ll be the end of an era.Congrats to Helen Alfredsson, the inimitable Alfie, the US Senior Women’s Open champion, who kept on her major roll with victory in the Senior LPGA Championship at French Lick, Indiana, on Wednesday. The Swede was the only player to finish under par, on 214, 2 under and finished three strokes ahead of Juli Inkster, back in playing action after being the US captain (non-playing) at Gleneagles last month. It was a less successful, if possibly record-breaking, championship for Lee Anne Walker. “I may have made the Guinness Book of World Records,” she said after racking up 58 (FIFTY-EIGHT) penalty shots over two rounds. Walker hasn’t played competitively for a few years and she – and her caddy – hadn’t twigged that the caddy is not allowed to line the player up any more (unless the player moves away after being helped with alignment). It’s rule 10.2b apparently. Walker’s playing partners on the first day didn’t notice anything untoward but on the second day people were more observant and mentioned the infringement on her 5th hole. After consultation, officials decided that Walker had incurred 42 penalty shots on day one and 16 on day two, giving her scores of 127 and 90. (Walker was not disqualified for signing for an incorrect scorecard because she didn’t realise she’d broken any rules – rule 3.3b.)
“What can you do…?” Walker said, speaking to Doug Ferguson of Associated Press. “It was my fault for not knowing the rules. I don’t have anyone to blame but myself. Big lesson learned.”Finally, Suzann Pettersen and her son Herman are the featured pic because the Norwegian, who holed the putt that won Europe the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles last month, has written a moving and heartfelt letter to her son about the whole emotional occasion, her last act as a tournament professional. It’s wonderful and you can find it on lpga.com, ladieseuropeantour.com and various other .coms. It’s well worth a read but keep the hankies handy.