Last week the Ladies European Tour unveiled their new schedule for 2021, the product of their fledgling association with the LPGA. There are 27 events, worth €19 million.
I wrote a column three years ago – obviously pre-pandemic and not in any recession era – after the LET simply lost six events in mid-season and seemed doomed.
Then, I didn’t see why golf in general should allow the LET to fail; it was a crucial element to the grassroots development of golf in Europe for half our population.
Thankfully Mike Whan, the commissioner of the LPGA, agreed and had the foresight to fight through the various obstacles to make the association happen.
The result is this robust schedule – doubling the number of events from 2017 – which should cement the future of women’s professional golf outside the strongholds of the USA and East Asia.
Foresight and commitment
Whan is stepping down as LPGA commissioner and the hope is that his successor has the same foresight and commitment. But there should be no shortage of operators in golf – in men’s golf particularly – who have the same instincts and motivations that he did.
One aspect of the new LET schedule that did disappoint was the loss of Ladies Scottish Open’s major sponsor, Aberdeen Standard Investments.
ASI’s involvement in the LSO was clearly driven by Martin Gilbert, their long-time chief executive. Now he’s retired, they’re out, almost immediately (they are still committed to the men’s Scottish Open, as far as I am aware).
The championship is not in danger – there is still a co-sanctioning arrangement, and the Scottish Government, in the guise of VisitScotland, remain committed. The championship is getting a venue split from the men’s Scottish this year, which is a good idea in my opinion.
The women’s Scottish Open needs and deserves more support
But to me the women’s – or ladies if you must – Scottish Open needs and actually deserves far more support and input than the men’s does. With the Rolex Series status, place in the schedule and prestige, the men’s has no issues that really need addressed. It’s going to thrive no matter how long this pandemic sits with us.
More support does mean “affirmative action” which sets a lot of golf people bristling. But to me, and not just in golf, the opposition to giving women – or minorities – an extra advantage in the modern world has never made any reasonable sense.
If the world was or is really meritocratic, there might be a point. But it isn’t, there’s still too much nepotism, sexism and racism. Patronage remains by far a more telling factor on achievement than merit ever has.
We actually owe “affirmative action” to people who have been unjustly ignored or bypassed for centuries.
Golf has treated women absolutely abysmally for the 250 years it’s been properly organised. It was only in 2014 that the most famous golf club in the world finally admitted women.
There’s plenty of money
That’s a whole lot of catching up to do. Golf remains an exceedingly rich sport, even in these days of pandemic losses. There’s plenty of money there to go into the women’s game, and some organisations like the R&A are doing their best to change their own history by investing it.
Men’s golf is much more popular than the women’s game, but I’m not having the “market forces” argument either. If you invest and promote something properly, you’ll create a demand. There’s a massive audience for women’s golf out there that remains largely untapped.
Hopefully, the new LET schedule will get the attention, promotion and further investment it deserves.
Rangefinders don’t speed up play
The PGA of America last week announced they’d to allow rangefinders at the majors they control – the PGA Championship, the KPMG Women’s PGA and Senior PGA.
This has produced the usual battlelines drawn amongst traditionalists and progressives. I’m no traditionalist but I know for sure that one of the reasons for the change – this will speed up play – is completely bogus.
The idea is that players and caddies will no longer need to consult yardage books utterly ignores the fact that these books are annotated with much more necessary information than simple distance to the flag.
(And I’m not solely referring to motivational slogans like “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” This was was in Jordan Spieth’s yardage book during his major run and is of course quoting…Yoda from Star Wars.)
They won’t bin the books
And they won’t bin the books anyway. What you’ll have instead is players unzipping their rangefinder from the tasteful leatherette bag, checking the yardage, replacing it in the bag and zipping it back up.
And then whipping the yardage book out of the hip pocket and leafing through it. You know, just to be absolutely sure.
This was the exact scenario I saw in PGA events in the UK when they allowed rangefinders. They didn’t speed up play, they actually slowed it.
An extreme example…
A more extreme example I recall from the Scottish Boys some years back when the SGU finally allowed rangefinders. Young lad drives 30 yards right into the bundai. A hack doesn’t move it. Another hack moves it about five yards. Fourth shot is a complete whiff.
Fifth shot he finally made solid contact and it squirts back into the fairway. Opponent is by this time safely on in two.
Reaching his ball in the fairway, the young lad heaved a sigh. And then pulled out his rangefinder…