However, it seems as if professional golf is stuck in a time warp. Women, playing exactly the same 72 holes in their U.S. Open and Women’s British Open as the men, admittedly slightly shorter holes to take cognisance of the respective hitting power of the genders.
But the best female players in the world face exactly the same challenges as their male counterparts, challenges which include playing under pressure, competing against the very best of the rest, playing in wind and rain, out of bunkers and the rough, avoiding out-of-bounds and that cruellest of all mistresses, Lady Luck herself.
Having covered four open championships in the month of July, the Scottish Open followed by the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, then the Ladies Scottish Open and finally the Ricoh Women’s British Open, the most striking differences were how much fun the women’s events were to cover as a journalist. More so for those intrepid photographers - how much the female players seemed to be enjoying - as opposed to the men seemingly enduring - their God-given talent and how accessible, amenable and open the top female players are, to fans and the media.
Watching women’s golf at the elite level was like watching in 3D, high-definition colour. The men’s events one-dimensional and seemingly in black-and-white, and yet there were four-times the number of press, including golf ‘Number-ones,’ and feature writers in attendance at the men’s events.
Having calculated that Mi-Hyang Lee, the winner of the Ladies Scottish Open made exactly 18.5% of the US$1.25m earned by Rafa Cabrera-Bello a fortnight earlier for winning the men’s version over the self-same Dundonald Links golf course. And that the winner of the Ricoh Women’s British Open (In-Kyung Kim) would win 27% of the US$1.9m won by Jordan Spieth at Royal Birkdale, the pre-tournament press conferences ahead of the Women’s British Open presented a perfect opportunity to gauge the mood in the ladies locker-room.
Asked about the gender pay gap, Scotland’s Catriona Matthew said, “I think equality is moving in the right direction,” adding, “Obviously in an ideal world, you'd love it to be the same amount in each, but I think certainly we're heading in the right way.”
Meanwhile, English poster-girl Charley Hull said, “I don't know, really. I suppose because men have more coverage, so then more people watch it, so it's better sponsorship,” adding, “But I don't know. I think it's getting there, but I can't answer that question though, I don't think about it too much.”
So, it was left to the Grand Dame of women’s golf, Laura Davies to hit the nail on the head.
“We need backing from Europe corporate, we need them to put their money behind us [and] think we're a good product, because I think we are,” said the 54-year-old, insisting, “I think the girls do a great job in the Pro-Ams and the way they conduct themselves at tournaments.
“But we need people to step up with the money to back us. TV, we're getting more TV now, but we're not seeing the results from it,” continued the winner of 84 titles worldwide, admitting, “I'm just a golfer. I don't know why.
“If you're saying women's sport doesn't get the support it deserves, I agree with you 100%,” reflected the four-time ‘Major’ winner, concluding, “I don't know why we don't get the support.
“The LPGA Tour is so well backed, and I would have thought we would get something like that in Europe, but for some reason, the corporate world isn't that interested in us at the moment. Hopefully, that will change, so fingers crossed.”
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