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  • Alistair Tait

Facts matter in battle for golf equality

Woman & Golf editor Emma Ballard hits the nail right on its proverbial head with her first editorial for the publication: facts matter in the battle for equality in golf.

Hideki Matsuyama’s Masters win was historical. His victory was more notable because all and sundry referenced that he’d become the first Japanese man to win a major.

That was significant in this oh so male-dominated game.

As Ballard writes:

“There was a conscious effort not to show bias towards the men’s game and also to recognise the women who had actually accomplished these feats first.
“I am referencing the use of the word “men’s” in the TV coverage, news articles and social media posts over the weekend. It became particularly noticeable after Hideki Matsuyama held the lead after the third round. Was he going to become the first men’s major champion from Japan?
“The build up to the final round and post event saw numerous references to the Japanese women who came before Matsuyama. Both major champions Hisako Higuchi and Hinako Shibuno (pictured) were mentioned as well as the week before belonging to amateur (Tsubasa) Kajitani.”

There was a time when those last facts would probably have been over-looked.

I remember a prominent golf commentator about five years ago saying it was a shame no Scottish player had won a major since Paul Lawrie’s 1999 Open Championship victory at Carnoustie, totally forgetting Catriona Matthew’s fantastic 2009 Ricoh Women’s Open victory at Royal Lytham & St Annes.

Andy Murray had women tennis fans, and quite a few male ones too, cheering to the rooftops when he corrected a journalist in 2017 who said Sam Querrey was the first U.S. player to get to the semi-final of a grand slam since 2009. Murray was quick to say: “Male player.”

Thankfully, Masters competitors didn’t have to correct journalists who might have said Matsuyama was bidding to become the first Japanese player to win a major.

As Ballard writes:

“The fact that Matsuyama's achievement has been celebrated with his female counterparts is almost nothing short of a miracle in the golf world!”

Facts matter. History matters. Perspective matters. For too long the men’s game has totally dominated the golfing world. You could even argue it’s the reason Women & Golf exists. The publishers obviously realised there was a gap in the market, that mainstream publications weren't serving women golfers, and rushed to fill it. The fact that gap existed in the first place is a poor reflection on the game of golf.

Before anyone points out that I’ve worked for mainstream golf publications my entire career, I’d like to think I’ve done my own wee bit to promote equality in this great game. I argued for women to be admitted to our top clubs, especially the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, long before it happened. I’ve also advocated equal prize money in the major championships the R&A, USGA and PGA of America run. I mean, in case they haven’t noticed, it happens in tennis and it is 2021.

Ballard concludes by saying:

“I like to think that this has hopefully signified a tipping point where we become more conscious about the way we reference people and their achievements going forward.
“We all know that we cannot achieve equality overnight, especially in golf, but putting thought behind how we communicate can only have a positive impact on the way the sport is viewed, moving in the right direction away from gender bias and making sure that golf is seen as the inclusive sport that we all know it to be.”

And so say all of us.

#JustSaying: I do not think there is a woman player who is not totally supportive of Andy Murray. He has spoken up for women’s rights, especially in tennis, forever.” Serena Williams

Photograph courtesy of the Ladies European Tour


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