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  • Alistair Tait

The world hasn't come to an end

Austria's Christine Wolf may have made history yesterday. As far as I can tell, she's the first woman to hold or share the lead in a European Tour event. And guess what, the world didn't come to an end.

Imagine that?

As I write, Caroline Hedwall and Ashley Chesters share the lead on 10-under-par in the Scandinavian Mixed Hosted by Henrik and Annika in Gothenburg, Sweden. I've just looked out my office window: the sky hasn’t fallen in, there aren’t bolts of lightning flying through the air, the planet hasn’t turned upside down. Life is continuing as normal.

Indeed, looking at the names on a leaderboard containing an equal mix of 78 female and male players competing for one trophy and one €1 million prize fund seems perfectly normal. So normal it’s amazing it’s taken this long for the European Tour and Ladies European Tour to make this happen.

Men and women have played in the same professional tournaments before. The Vic Open features equal prize money, but men and women don’t play against each other. The women’s and men’s events run simultaneously. The LET, European Senior Tour and Challenge Tour staged the 2019 Jordan Mixed, when Daan Huizing defeated Meghan MacLaren by two shots to win. The world didn’t fall apart on that occasion either.

However, this is the first time the top two European Tours have come together as one. Again, strange it’s taken this long, especially when a successful mixed event has been running successfully for years practically in the European Tour’s backyard.

The Sunningdale Foursomes has been going as long as the Masters. It also started in 1934. The past winners list contains male and female names, amateur and professional. Joyce Wethered won in 1935 and 1936 alongside J.S.F. Morrison. Open champions Alf Padgham and Max Faulkner are among the list of winners. Five-time Amateur champion Sir Michael Bonallack won in 1959.

European Tour winners Neil Coles, Sam Torrance, Richard Boxall, Ronan Rafferty, Roger Chapman, Anthony Wall, Ross Fisher, Simon Khan and former world number one Luke Donald have their names on the trophy.

LET winners Micky Walker, Corinne Dibnah and Dale Reid are past champions. TV commentator Maureen Madill is a former winner.

Men and women come together at Sunningdale Golf Club every March and no one thinks anything of it. No big deal. They just get on with it.

The Scandinavian Mixed has another two years to run. Whether we see offshoot events remains to be seen. Don’t hold your breathe. There are probably 78 men currently cursing under their breathes right now because they have no tournament to play in this week.

Keith Pelley made it clear last year that mixed events would be rare when he said:

“We’re talking about collaboration throughout our season on occasions, at key moments when we bring women and men together to play on the same platform.
“There is number that makes sure it continues to be creative and unique but it’s not commonplace. They are a Ladies European Tour, a women’s Tour, we’re a men’s tour. We’re going to collaborate because it is best for the game and its best for the commercial side of the game as well.”

Whether discussions have continued with the LET about further events is questionable considering the impact Covid-19 has had on the respective European Tour and LET schedules. Hopefully, once things get back to normal, those discussions can continue in earnest and we see more mixed tournaments showcasing Europe’s best, with marquee names players, as I noted in yesterday’s blog.

Mixed golf can only be good for the game – and the world won’t come to an end.

#JustSaying: “We’re in the entertainment business,” Keith Pelley

Photograph courtesy of the Ladies European Tour


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