Mixed Golf Events Need Star Names
Don’t know about you, but I’m excited about this week’s Scandinavian Mixed Hosted by Henrik and Annika near Gothenburg. I just wish there were more “name” players competing in it.
In a first for the European Tour, the 156-player field is split 50/50 between women and men who will play for the same trophy and equal money from the €1 million prize fund.
What’s not to like about that?
Tournament director Mikael Eriksson said great lengths have been taken to ensure the course plays fairly for both Euro Tour and LET players.
"The course is playing approximately 1,000 shorter for the ladies or 14.5 per cent and hopefully we will see a good mix in the scores,” Eriksson said.
“We’ve had all our referees speaking to the players this week and we’ve got some feedback. They all seem to be enjoying the set up and the condition of the course.
“The toughest thing is that we can’t set up every hole equally difficult or equally easy. Some holes will play more difficult for women and some holes will play more difficult for men.
“I think to find a balance over 18 holes is the important thing and I think we are almost there.”
Sorenstam and Stenson are obviously the star attractions. They’ll play the first two rounds with 2018 Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn. There are many quality players in the field – Emily Kristine Pedersen, Joost Luiten, Beth Allen, Sam Horsfield, Amy Boulden, Renato Paratore, Carly Booth, Oliver Fisher, Meghan MacLaren, Robert Rock and others.
What’s missing are name players. Like it or not, names garner media attention. The PGA Tour wouldn’t be spending $40 million on its Player Impact Program if that wasn’t the case.
However, well done the European Tour, Ladies European Tour, Annika Sorenstam and Henrik Stenson and others for all the effort in putting on this unique tournament. The more we mix men and women at the top level the more chance that has to filter down into the lower levels of the game and help golf attain equal participation numbers between men and women.
Who knows, if that happen we may get a wish Sir Henry Cotton stated over 40 years ago. In his book Thanks for the Game. He looked into his crystal ball and called for a day when…
“…skill would count more than sheer strength and the day of the female Open Champion could approach. There would be some turning of male bodies in their graves at the thought of Mrs Nancy Lopez Melton’s name on the old plinth.”
The latter sentence is certainly true. Indeed, no doubt a faction of today's golfing fraternity probably feels that way now. Thankfully, they are getting past their sell by dates.
Sweden is perfect for a mixed tournament. It is streets ahead of Great Britain when it comes to participation numbers for men and women. So far past us you’d think the game had been invented just outside Stockholm instead of the East Coast of Scotland. It’s a credit to the Swedish system that participation rates for women are much higher than in Great Britain. According to latest figures, Women make up 28% of all adult registered golfers in Sweden, compared to 14% for England, and 13% for Scotland and Wales.
Maybe we need a British Mixed event?
This is the first of the three-year deal to stage this unique tournament. Fingers crossed it goes well and grows to the point where it can attract bigger names in future so we get more tournaments that mix the best female and men players playing the same course for equal prize money. That can only help golf in its efforts to grow the game.
#JustSaying: “There doesn’t have to be a big divide between men & women’s sport. Events like this are really important to bring it to a wider audience.” Meghan MacLaren
Photograph by Getty Images courtesy of the European Tour