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Revisiting The All-Male Clubs Controversy

by Lewine Mair - January 20, 2014

ABU DHABI, UAE | A month or so ago, the Royal Burgess Golf Club in Edinburgh earned a proverbial pat on the back from the remaining all-male clubs in the UK when its members decided to stay with the status quo.

Now, though, the pendulum would seem to be swinging the other way.

On Friday, Pat Sawers, a Carnoustie lady who played with Scotland’s Craig Lee in the 2012 Dunhill Links Championship, was announced as the first woman chairman of the Carnoustie Golf Links’ Management Committee. An extraordinary honour bearing in mind that Carnoustie has always come across as a man’s place.

Then, on Saturday, Giles Morgan, the global head of sponsorship at HSBC, said he was sure the R&A “would come up with the right answers” after the consultation process that began after last year’s Open.

That week, negative media coverage concerning Muirfield’s all-male membership took away from what was otherwise a magnificent occasion.

Morgan said that HSBC, whose contract as an Open sponsor is expected to be renewed this year, has had to field customer questions about the bank’s involvement in an event that can involve equality issues. “Not a lot of questions,” he expanded, “but I don’t want to be in a situation where I’m having to justify our sponsorship.”

Across the years, the R&A have done their best to discourage the press from going down the “Why no women?” route at all three of the male-only Open Championship venues – Muirfield, Royal Troon and Royal St George’s. Try as they might, they have never succeeded.

Morgan is satisied that officialdom’s consultation process is no superficial affair. “They’ve been asking a lot of sponsors and stakeholders for input over the last three or four months and they are acutely aware that things need to change and move on.”

Morgan added that there is no question of anyone holding a gun to the R&A’s heads. If anything, he believes that more pressure will come from the Olympic movement as golf joins the Games in 2016: “We know the Olympics is about men and women playing on the same stage and that to be a part of the Olympic family, there are certain stipulations which must be adhered to.”

An R&A spokesman replied as follows: “We promised a period of reflection immediately after last year’s Championship and this process is ongoing. Naturally we have taken soundings within the game and we will report the outcome of our deliberations in due course.”

Meanwhile, you have to wonder if Royal St George’s might use the week of the 2014 Ladies’ British Open Amateur Championship in June as a springboard for changing its constitution.

Rory McIlroy says that Caroline Wozniacki, who flew straight to Abu Dhabi after losing in the Australian Open, is the more competitive of the two of them – and that she has helped him to become more of a fighter.

McIlroy cheerfully admitted as much when he was talking about their mutual love of sport and how, whenever they play a match – most likely pool or table tennis – “she has to win.”

Caroline, he expanded, is a slightly tenser individual than he is, “partly because it’s in her nature and partly because her sport is head to head all the way and calls for a more sustained level of competitiveness.

“In golf,” he continued, “you spend the first three days trying to stay on an even keel. You play the course and you certainly don’t want to waste your energy fist-pumping and everything else. It’s only when you’re coming down the stretch that it’s man against man. That’s when the ‘fighting’ comes into it.”

McIlroy added that in picking up on Caroline’s ways, he has become altogether less inclined to let his shoulders slump if things are not going according to plan.

In exemplification of which, he went back to the recent Australian Open in which he held on to beat Adam Scott: “It often looked as if Adam was going to have the better of me but I kept sticking in and, when I got the chance, I took it.”

So what did Caroline say when he won?

“She said, ‘Great fighting,’ and she was 100 percent right. That’s exactly what it was.”

The women of the LPGA will have murder in their hearts.

Mick Seaborn, one of the finest caddies in the business, was identifying the differences between caddying for the men and players on the LPGA Tour.

Seaborn, who worked with Ai Miyazato for eight very successful years and is currently with Søren Hansen, said that there was one difference that stood out above the rest.

“The men,” he said matter-of-factly, “play so much faster, especially when you think about how much further they have to walk.”

He looked at his watch and noted that Hansen, Grégory Havret and Carlos del Moral had negotiated the 7,383 yards of the Abu Dhabi Golf Club course in four hours and 36 minutes. “You would never,” he declared, “get the women doing that.”

Simon Dyson, who missed the cut in Abu Dhabi, says he is ready to move on after his £30,000 fine and two months’ suspended ban for tapping down a spike mark. “I did tap it down and, when you look at it on video, it was blatantly obvious what I had done,” he said. “But it was not premeditated in any way.”

He said the panel had asked him if he was in the habit of tapping down spike marks at the end of a hole and he had answered in the affirmative: “It’s something I’ve always done. As I walk off a green, I tap down any spike marks I see because I don’t think it’s fair for anyone that they are there.”

When Sergio García said that Katharina Boehm, his girlfriend/ caddie, had sacked him after their recent victory together in Thailand, he was making lighthearted reference to how she had wanted to go out on a high note on the bag.

Boehm had enjoyed the experience hugely but, as a graduate in communications and business administration from the College of Charleston, Boehm is now concentrating on her boyfriend’s social-media output.

Boehm was not the only partner with work on her hands last week. Pernilla Björn, wife of Thomas, did not come to Abu Dhabi purely as a spectator. Rather did she have a camera to hand after being asked to supply pictures for this year’s Nordea Masters pretournament publicity.

Pernilla was instructed to look for “rawness” and “anger” in her images. For the purposes of the latter, she thought that either of Thomas or Henrik Stenson, as they played together, might provide the odd glimpse.

With her husband, at least, she was wasting her time. For the first two rounds, he was serenity personified and 7-under par.

Shergo Kurdi’s dad, Mussa, approached McIlroy and asked if the 10-year-old Shergo could hit a few shots for him. McIlroy happily agreed and the child knocked a series of thoroughly impressive irons down the range.

The little lad won the UK Kids Under 12 championship when he was 9 and has been invited to play in the Callaway Junior World Golf Championships this year in San Diego. Also worth a mention is that he had two holes-in-one at Foxhills Golf Club outside London on the same day.

Shergo has equipment made for him by Nike and a swing to explain why Nike would have arranged to club and clothe him for the next few years. Foxhills have given him a scholarship, as have TopGolf, the driving-range people. He can hit as many balls as he likes and eat as much as he likes in the restaurant.

A recipe for success or disaster?

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