See It to Be It: Women’s Golf Participation Is Surging
Welcome news has recently emerged from a mercifully diminishing caucus in golf, one that in this royal and ancient game has too often favored the ancient notion that women need not apply: Pine Valley announced that it would soon begin to admit female members.
Private clubs are entitled to set their own policies, even discriminatory ones, but it was a disturbing look that early in the 21st century, membership to three of the highest-profile golf clubs in the world — Augusta National, the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield, and Pine Valley — was closed to women.
That all three now have acquiesced is affirmation that the game finally — and in some cases reluctantly — is acknowledging that it is better off as an egalitarian one. As for those in opposition, brace yourself.
“The future of this game is so female, not just here in America, but all around the world,” outgoing LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said during the ANA Inspiration in April. Whan is the new CEO of the United States Golf Association (USGA), placing one of the world’s greatest advocates of women’s golf in a leadership position to advance the cause to an even greater degree.
“Events like this are what matter to these young girls. If you said 12 years ago to anybody that the future of the game, junior golf, was going to look almost 40 percent female — at a time when we were in the 13, 14, 15 percent range — they’d have said you were crazy. That’s what I think we should be most proud of, because this is important.”
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, an Augusta National member and avid golfer, spoke at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and used an increasingly common inspirational term to boldface the issue: “See it to be it.” Junior girls now have the opportunity to witness LPGA players in major championships at venues that were heretofore the exclusive domain of the men’s game.
Check the schedules. The U.S. Women’s Open was played at the Olympic Club this year, and future sites include Pebble Beach Golf Links in 2023. The 2021 KPMG Women’s PGA was played at the Atlanta Athletic Club, and its future sites include Congressional CC in 2022 and the Lower Course at Baltusrol CC in 2023. The AIG Women’s British Open will go to Carnoustie this year, Muirfield in 2022 and St Andrews in 2024.
Progress, however, has its costs. The Augusta National Women’s Amateur is inarguably an enormous boost to the women’s game, but its final round on national television on a Saturday came at the expense of the third round of the ANA Inspiration, the LPGA major popularized by Dinah Shore that has been the women’s equivalent (albeit to a lesser degree) of the Masters. Whan has acknowledged that, in the future, an alternate date will probably have to be found.
Nevertheless, two steps forward and one step back is still progress. And the game is better for it.