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The world of women’s golf has gone through some major changes in the last year. Satisfying considering it was just 12 months ago that Michelle Wie hit back at the sexist remarks from Donald Trump’s former attorney Rudy Giuliani.
This entire saga made waves and caused outrage in the world of women’s sport. Referring to a charity event he’d played in with Michelle, Rudy had cracked what he referred to as a “joke” about crowds following Michelle to photograph her “panties”. "Anyway, on the green is Michelle Wie and she’s getting ready to putt," Giuliani said. "Now, Michelle Wie is gorgeous; she’s 6ft [tall] and she has a strange putting stance. She bends all the way over and her panties show. And the press was going crazy, they're trying to take pictures of her panties. I said, “Roger, it’s not me. It’s not you. It’s her panties.""
Wie’s response to these comments was fiery and rightly so. She hit back on social media with a powerful message:
pic.twitter.com/sSbeNFY6c0February 20, 2021
“What this person should have remembered from that day was the fact that I shot 64 and beat every male golfer in the field leading our team to victory,’’ she wrote. “I shudder thinking he was smiling to my face and complimenting my game while objectifying me and referencing my ‘panties’ behind my back all day.’’ My putting stance six years ago was designed to improve my putting stats (I ended up winning the US Open that year), NOT as an invitation to look up my skirt!”
Having recently become a mother her patience would have been tested due to sleep deprivation and when you’re a new mum your filter gets misplaced and justifiably so. The entire golf world got behind Wie including the USGA, who responded with: "Sexism has no place in golf or life. We are always in your corner." The fantastic response from the community showed golf's true voice.
So has attitude towards women in golf changed a year on? The sad fact is there will always be someone who has an inappropriate opinion on sportswomen. The prickles go up at the slightest sexist or disrespectful tweet, it’s hard to turn a blind eye.
Now personally I think sexist monogamists are still out there at large, not much has changed there. Be it in private members clubs as well as in the media. They are just a bit more careful where they air their views, the backlash these days is like a tsunami thanks to social media. We’d be pretty naive to think that in the last 12 months they’ve all changed their ways, support inclusivity and respect the women on tour for their talent and not their appearance.
Women being viewed as objects isn’t going to just melt away into the background. It is wrong and the more they aren’t reported the better the world is painted for new and upcoming superstars to chase their dreams on tour. The focus HAS to be on the positives and how the game is growing and less on the throwaway and offensive comments.
What is changing within the women's game for the better? First off exciting things are happening within the amateur game. At the grassroots level of the game there are plenty of innovative projects being run and new younger women are taking golf up. With female participation tripling since the pandemic, 830,000 of the 5.2million golfers that took up golf in the UK for the first time were women. Golf is growing at an exponential rate and much of this growth is powered by female fertiliser.
The Jazzy Golfer has launched “The Women’s Golf Community” in a bid to retain many of these newer golfers and help to grow the golfing community and bring women together via local meet-ups. With the focus on fun and filling ranges with females, the venues that host the WGC sessions are a long way from the typical old fashioned golf club where women and dogs were once banned!
Flexible membership options and different versions of golf will appeal to those women who are constrained by time and family/work commitments. Golf is beginning to change to accommodate busy lives.
More young and talented players are coming up through junior programmes and bursting onto the tour scene. The likes of Leona Maguire and Lily May Humphries are beginning to see a rise in the money they can earn which makes a career on tour all the more appealing.
It’s not hard to ignore the huge investment being injected into the game right now. In 2021 the AIG women’s open boasted a record prize fund. Seeing an increase by $1.3 million to $5.8 million with the winner earning $870,000. This will further increase by $1 million to no less than $6.8 million in 2022.
The US Women's Open prize money will nearly double this year to $10 million. That number is up from $5.5 million last year and will continue to increase over the next five years to $12 million. The increase is in part thanks to the USGA bringing on a presenting sponsor, ProMedica, a not-for-profit integrated health organisation.
The Aramco Saudi International tournament restarted the Ladies European Tour. Aramco could be seen as the saviour to women’s professional golf in Europe. Their innovative Aramco Series has seen a merge between the LPGA and LET tours and huge investment being ploughed into a whole different professional format of golf. This is what we call mixing it up. This is the future.
The more dynamic formats that are out there the more the tournaments will be broadcast and supported by big sponsors such as Aramco. The male pros are doing their bit with Justin Rose backing the Rose Ladies Series in the UK. This went a long way to keeping pros in the UK competing when flying wasn’t an option during the pandemic.
The future of the women’s game is so bright and shiny and this matches the players out there these days. The world of social media, which is heavily about how the person is presented, has definitely had an impact and the women game has a whole new platform to show off the incredible talent out there.
LET star and Rose Ladies Series winner Liz Young says “Women are on the front cover of mainstream golf magazines, women are broadcasting for Sky Sports on all major mens tournaments as well as covering the ladies tours, coverage is greater on TV and the women's game is just way more visible than ever before. It’s happening slowly. There is still a long way to go and it needs to be helped by all media outlets but there is slow change”
Not only is the ability to earn more improving out on tour, but venues that have hosted the men's US Open including Oakmont and Pinehurst No. 2 amongst others will open their doors up to the LPGA. Pinehurst will in fact host both Opens in successive weeks in 2029.
This is one of the first initiatives announced by the USGA since Mike Whan (former LPGA Tour commissioner) took over as CEO of the USGA last summer. Now 2029 seems a way off but it feels like the men’s and women’s games are not as far apart as they once were.
Don’t get me wrong the difference in prize money is still obscene but it’s getting there. Could we one day see a similar picture to that of the Pro Tennis world? Women and Men earning the same? We live in hope. One thing is for sure. The future is bright and full of strong talented females.
Katie is an Advanced PGA professional with over 20 years of coaching experience. She helps golfers of every age and ability to be the best versions of themselves. In January 2022 she was named as one of Golf Monthly's Top 50 Coaches.
Katie coaches the individual and uses her vast experience in technique, psychology and golf fitness to fix problems in a logical manner that is effective - she makes golf simple.
She has coached tour pros on both LET tour and the Challenge Tour as well as introduced many a beginner to the game. An experienced club coach, she developed GardenGOLF and now freelances, operating via pop-up clinics and travelling to clients homes to help them use their space to improve.
Katie has been writing instructional content for magazines for 20 years. Her creative approach to writing is fuelled by her sideline as an artist.
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