Gallic farce amidst golf’s gender battle

first_imgThe Royal and Ancient Golf Club’s decision to allow women to enter the Open Championship will provide the likes of Michelle Wie, teeing off in her first professional tournament as the announcement was made, with the chance to challenge their male counterparts directly.The move is progressive and open-minded, in fact the very nature of an ‘Open’ Championship dictates that gender should be a side issue, but was always likely to ruffle a few feathers.Frenchman Jean Van de Velde, last witnessed wading through Carnoustie’s Barry Burn on the final hole of the 1999 Open Chamionship, offered the most absurd reaction The piqued 39 year old claimed, in protest, that he would attempt to qualify for next year’s Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale: “I am definitely going to approach them to get an application and if they let me play in the qualifying event then I will. I’ll even wear a kilt and shave my legs.”We thought we’d seen the last of his legs in Barry Burn, but Van de Velde, it seems, is serious. despite the fact that no female professionals except Wie have expressed even a long-term thought of competing with men, he insists that a line must be drawn in the sand trap.”Those guys playing in The Open a hundred and fifty years ago and who won it three or four times must be spinning in their graves. My whole point is where do we draw the line?” Van de Velde asked after hacking his way through a seven-over 78 at the Volvo Masters in Spain (a men’s tournament). “If we accept that women can enter our tournaments, then it applies that men can play with women.”Maybe the Frenchman is willing to play the fool to provoke discussion of wider issues about the separation of women’s and men’s events and the spirit of competition, but we simply can’t take his suggestions seriously. Someone of the calibre of Tiger Woods, for instance, would never consider such an absurd or unsporting suggestion as entering a women’s event, and the prospect of Van de Velde doing so is uninspiring. It smacks of a cheap publicity stunt by an out-of-form player who feels threatened by the emergence of women with the ability to humiliate him yet further, this time on a golf course.Besides, Van de Velde is overlooking the Ladies’ Golf Union “gender policy”: “It shall be a condition of any competition organised by the Ladies’ Golf Union that players must be of the female gender.” Looks like the Philips Ladyshave can be put away for a rainy day, then. There is also the clause: “If there is uncertainty as to a player’s gender then, in order to ensure fair competition, a member of the committee may ask a player to provide proof of gender to a medical expert” – and Van de Velde certainly wouldn’t make the cut on this front.The crux of the matter is this; an influx of dominant men into women’s events would damage the game irreparably, whereas the likes of Wie or Annika Sorenstam would have to play “up” to the standard of the field in order to compete. The argument simply cannot be made in the opposite direction. What is more, players like Wie and Sorenstam competing with men would surely help to dissolve misogynistic condescension and inspire young girls with the confidence and ambition to follow in their footsteps.  ARCHIVE: 5th week MT 2005last_img read more

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