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‘A Woman’s Place’ Has Drastically Changed

by Lewine Mair - June 8, 2015

At the Spanish Open and again at the recent BMW PGA Championship, there was an old tournament programme going the rounds from the John Player Classic of 1970. It included an article, A Woman’s Place, that was all about golfers’ wives.

Today’s professionals gulped as they read it. Lee Slattery emitted one disbelieving “Blooming heck!” after another, while a bemused David Howell photographed each page in turn to send to his spouse.

Tony Jacklin’s first wife, Vivien, who so sadly died of a brain haemorrhage, was one of the first to be quoted in a piece which was penned by Liz Kahn, formerly of The Guardian.

“I don’t know what Tony would do,” said Vivien, “if he had married someone with an interest other than him.

“I try to make his life as smooth as possible. When he is going to golf in the morning, I set out his clothes, having pressed them all first, because he always likes to look well turned-out and I enjoy looking after him. I don’t want my independence. It might not suit other people but it suits me.”

Elsewhere, Tom Weiskopf spelt out that a wife’s job was to make sure that her husband’s life “has no ripples. She must see that the organisation runs smoothly so that her husband can concentrate solely on his golf.” (The pair eventually were divorced.)

The conclusion drawn by today’s tournament men was that not too many of the modern golfing wives have much in common with the wives of old.

“There are still some professionals out here,” ventured Richard Finch, “who would probably love to have an old-style wife - not, mind you, that they would dare say so.” He added that he, personally, saw “a half-way house” arrangement as the best answer, one in which the wife has a job offering a certain amount of flexibility. (His wife, Debbie, works parttime for ISM.)

Most of those quizzed were agreed that the spouses who came closest to those of the Jacklin era were South African.

Tom Weiskopf spelt out that a wife’s job was to make sure that her husband’s life “has no ripples. She must see that the organisation runs smoothly so that her husband can concentrate solely on his golf.” (The pair eventually were divorced.)

Hennie Otto put this down to a South African upbringing in which ancient traditions live on. Even now, he sees instances of older women insisting on serving husbands first at the dinner table: They would never dream of putting themselves or their children ahead of the man of the house.

On a slightly different tack, Otto could understand how first Rory McIlroy and then Sergio García had parted company with long-term, sports-loving partners. McIlroy, of course, split from Caroline Wozniacki while, more recently, García parted company with his plus-4 golfing fiancée, Katharina Boehm.

“It just didn’t feel quite right,” said García, who knew it was better to deal with the situation sooner rather than later.

In Otto’s opinion, a girl with ambitions and a life of her own is never going to change overnight into someone who can comply with the extraordinarily demanding ways of a professional golfer’s lifestyle.

To him, a couple who have grown up together – he cited Louis Oosthuizen and his wife, Nel-Mare – probably have the best chance of a successful union: “Nel-Mare got used to what the tournament life was going to be like when she was still young.”

Otto’s own marriage has been much the same. He has known his spouse for 22 years and been married for 12 of them.

Søren Kjeldsen’s wife, Charlotte, backed up Otto’s views about one competitive person marrying another not being the best bet. She had been friends with just such a twosome: “They were a lovely couple who still came to the conclusion that a longterm relationship wasn’t going to work.”

She herself, incidentally, did not mind admitting to being entirely content with her lot as a mostly stay-at-home mother looking after three small children.

“It is a dificult life having your husband away so much but I have no complaints,” she said. “Søren is brilliant with the children when he’s home. He does all the taking and fetching.”

It was Kjeldsen’s 40th birthday during the Spanish Open and he had brought the family with him. He was still bouncing the little ones on his knee at breakfast and, no, it did not seem to have an adverse affect on his performance. He finished in the top 10.

That kind of mass family outing becomes harder when the children are of school age and Stephen Gallacher’s wife, Helen, and Justin’s Rose wife, Kate, were two who attended the European Tour’s dinner in the BMW week before hurrying home to oversee their children’s schooling. They went with their husbands’ full approval.

Rose’s mother, Annie, who stayed to watch the golf, said she marvelled at how balanced Justin had managed to remain. “He’s a good son, husband, father and, of course, golfer. I couldn’t ask for more.”

Another angle to all of the above is that the modern man does not necessarily think his wife is the better at household chores.

Take Ian Poulter. Besides being “immersed” in the family when he is at home, he does his own ironing. His wife, Katie, confirmed as much during the Ryder Cup.

“He wouldn’t dream of letting me loose on it,” she laughed.


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