• Alistair Tait

Still waiting for women’s golf firsts


Christina McAnea’s words should ring true for all golf lovers. In a week in which we celebrate International Women’s Golf Day, her thoughts should make us realise we still have a long way to go until we can say this game we love is truly equal.


Never heard of McAnea? No, she wasn’t a one-time winner of an important women’s championship in the late 1800s or early 1900s. She's probably never set foot on a golf course in her life.


McAnea is General Secretary of Unison, the body that represents nearly a million public sector workers – nurses and porters and cleaners and many of those people who have put their lives on the line for us during this Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, McAnea is the first woman to lead one of the big trade unions. That’s a fact that not only surprises her but shocks her too. She also couldn’t get her head around being involved in leadership contest in which she was the only woman candidate against four men, when 80% of Unison members are female.


Speaking on radio show Political Thinking with Nick Robinson, McAnea said:

“It is shocking actually. I was really surprised when I was standing that I was the only woman candidate. It’s still slightly shocking that we’re still saying, ‘the first woman to anything.’”

Apply those words to golf and it’s hard to disagree with McAnea. Men have dominated our game for so long we take it for granted they’ll be put into positions of power.


Mollie Marcoux Samaan garnered a lot of column inches when she was recently appointed LPGA commissioner, only the second woman to lead the LPGA since Carolyn Bivens. No one would have been surprised if a man had been appointed to that role, just as no one was surprised when the person she replaced, Mike Whan, moved seamlessly into the USGA Executive Director job to replace Mike Davis. Whan is the eighth man to lead the USGA.


Wonder how many women candidates there were for that role? No woman has ever led the USGA, or the R&A, or the European Tour, or the PGA Tour or, well, the list is endless.


Much was made recently of Hannah McAllister becoming Wales Golf Chief Executive, the first female to lead the governing body. McAllister joins Karin Sharp in an exclusive club. Sharp was appointed Scottish Golf’s Chief Operating Officer in May last year.


This line in the news from Wales Golf was particularly depressing:

“Making her (McAllister) one of the first female chief executives of a merged golf governing body in the world.

As McAnea and many would point out: it’s 2021 for goodness sake, and we’re still celebrating the first woman to lead a golf organisation.


Maybe one of the reasons women’s participation in golf is so low in the British Isles is precisely because women have not been in positions of power to influence the game. Mind you, it took until 2014 until women were allowed to join some of our most important clubs, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.


Pine Valley, arguably the world’s number one club, has only just voted to accept women.


Things are changing thanks to people like R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers and others. Slumbers has been steadfast since taking up his role in 2014 about getting women and girls into golf one of the tenets of his role as leader of the golf organisation that governs the game for most of the world.


Wonder how long it will take for a woman to sit in the seat he now occupies, or become USGA boss, head the European or PGA Tour, or both the British and American Professional Golfers Associations, or a plethora of other organisations that wield such influence?


When will we reach the stage when we no longer have to write golf stories that start with “the first woman to…”?


#JustSaying: “I know the feeling of standing on a tee with real fear in my heart, the match slipping away and the club feeling strange.” Joyce Wethered

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