• Alistair Tait

Berkhamsted Trophy hangs in limbo

Entries for this year’s Berkhamsted Trophy close tomorrow at midday. The club is set to determine the field via the traditional ballot system.

Whether the tournament actually takes place is obviously another matter. The club intends to wait until the weekend to decide whether to go ahead with what will be a unique tournament.

For years a minor amateur event in these isles, Berkhamsted hit on a great idea to turn from a men-only event to a tournament featuring elite men and women amateurs. It’s the first amateur tournament in the British Isles to pit the best men against the best women on the same course for the same trophy.

“It is unsustainable, in the long term, for golf to continue to keep men and women apart like it has historically done” Berkhamsted Captain Henry Tse said when the club announced the new format.
“Berkhamsted has always been a progressive club, and we like to play golf as nature intended – as expressed by the lack of man-made hazards on our golf course. This decision is a natural evolution not only of that ethos, and but also of the way the modern world works. We will be excited to see men and women compete equally for our beloved Trophy.”

Great Britain & Ireland Curtis Cup captain Elaine Ratcliffe is scheduled to help ensure the tournament works for women as well as men.

“I applaud Berkhamsted for their forward thinking, and I am delighted to have been asked to help set up the golf to provide an equal test for both men and women during the event” she said.
“I will also help the club to secure as strong a women’s list of participants as possible.”

Ratcliffe has delivered on that promise. The tournament has attracted a lot of interest from elite women competitors. Many of those who were scheduled to play in the now cancelled Augusta National Women’s Amateur have entered the field.

Berkhamsted will take heart that last week’s Sunningdale Foursomes went ahead without glitches. However, the USGA yesterday cancelled the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball and U.S. Amateur Four-Ball yesterday, both of which were scheduled to take place after the Berkhamsted Trophy.

Clubs around the country are taking steps to minimise the coronavirus risk by ensuring members don’t touch flagsticks, removing bunker rakes, minimising social contact in clubhouses, etc. Richter Park Golf Club has taken the unique step of raising the putting cups one inch above the putting surface. The ball is considered holed when it hits the cup.

Berkhamsted could institute all of the above measures and more.

The betting man in me would wager Berkhamsted will follow the status quo and cancel the tournament. Although it will be a shame not to see this unique event go ahead, in the grand scheme of things cancelling a golf tournament, no matter how unique, is a minor item on a big, worried ship.

There will be plenty more years to stage future mixed Berkhamsted Trophies. Hopefully more clubs staging amateur tournaments will follow its lead and bring men and women together in the same tournament.

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