Golf Is a’Changin’ – Finally!
Updated: Aug 4
Remember when there was no Women’s Scottish Open? When the Ladies European Tour couldn’t find sponsors to put up prize money to stage Scotland’s national championship?
What a difference a change of attitude makes. This week’s Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open at Dundonald Links is worth $2 million, the richest women-only tournament on this year’s LET schedule outside the major championships. The purse is 33% higher than last year’s tournament at Dumbarnie Links, when American Ryann O’Toole was crowned champion.
The Women’s Scottish isn’t a major. It just looks like one. Here are the highlights from the field playing on the Ayrshire coast:
7 of the world’s top 10
20 major winners with 34 major titles
12 winners on the 2022 LPGA Tour, including major champions Jennifer Kupcho, Minjee Lee, and In Gee Chun
20 of the 2022 LET winners
43 LPGA winners with 163 titles
27 Solheim Cup stars with 62 appearances (18 from the 2021 Solheim Cup)
It’s an impressive array of talent, especially compared to another professional tournament 107 miles to the east.
The European Tour’s Hero Open is taking place over the Fairmont course at St Andrews. It’s worth €1,750,000 (approx. $1,780,000). When was the last time two non-major tournaments were held side by side on the respective European Tours and the women’s event was richer than the men’s?
I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that fact.
No major champions are in action in St Andrews. There are no world top 40 players, and just two in the world top 100. New Zealand’s Ryan Fox is the only top 50 player at 48th on the Official World Golf Ranking, while South African Oliver Bekker is the other top 100 player at 99th. There are only another seven from the top 200.
Too bad the events clash, but I know which tournament I’ll be paying attention to this week.
There were times when there was no Women’s Scottish Open. The inaugural tournament took place in 1986, but by 1989 it was off the LET schedule. It reappeared for two years in 1994 and 1995, went missing in non-action until 2007 and 2008, took a wee rest in 2009 and has been a permanent fixture on the LET schedule since 2010. Aberdeen Asset Management CEO Martin Gilbert deserves a lot of credit for investing in women’s golf as long term sponsor of the Women’s Scottish before Trust Golf took over.
The men’s tournament doesn’t exactly have a long history. The first men’s Scottish Open only took place in 1972 and was obsolete by 1974. It resurfaced in 1986 and was a big event on the European fixture list until 1996 when the Loch Lomond Invitational came into being. The early 2000s saw that event become the Scottish Open, and it’s been a regular on the European Schedule ever since. Just as this week's women's tournament is being held in partnership with the LPGA Tour, the men's Scottish is now co-sanctioned with the PGA Tour. It carries a purse of $8 million.
This short history lesson proves men’s professional golf in Scotland has had far more money thrown at it over the years than the women’s game. It’s perhaps to Scotland’s shame that Catriona Matthew is STILL Scotland’s only women’s major champion, albeit Scotland doesn’t exactly have a plethora of men’s major winners in the modern era. However, perhaps the statistic of one Scottish women’s major champion against 33 men might not exist if attitudes had been vastly different in the home of golf since that first shepherd, a man obviously, flushed a golf-ball like pebble with a crook in a moment of boredom.
Thankfully attitudes that kept women out of many golf clubs, or decreed they use the back not the front door, are a thing of the past. It’s not too long ago that next week's AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield would have been unthinkable, let alone the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers allowing the other half of the population to join the club. Remember, the HCEG needed two votes for that to happen.
Like other Open Championship clubs Royal St George’s and Royal Troon, the Honourable Company and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews are now part of an equality movement that should have started decades ago. It’s thanks to the new attitude Martin Slumbers instilled in the R&A when he took up his role as chief executive with a promise to get more women and girls into golf. Other organisations/home unions/associations have taken up that mantra to the point where it finally seems this old game is making progress.
There’s a long way to go, but we’ll get there. The golf times are a-changing – finally!
#JustSaying: “Women Who Seek Equality With Men Lack Ambition.” A bumper sticker Patty Sheehan once had on her car
Photograph courtesy of the Ladies European Tour