New World Order: Let’s Honor and Respect Women in the Game, Too
Golf has long been considered a “gentleman’s game.” In the best sense, that means it’s a game where manners are polite, discourse is civil, and honor is held as the highest standard. After all, players call penalties on themselves for such minuscule infractions as tamping down the wrong blade of grass in a 150-acre playground.
In the worst sense, our gentleman’s game has often been more of a “good ole boys club,” traditionally excluding women and minorities from membership, and tolerating — if not outright encouraging — behavior that would not be accepted at home.
With the world now focused on unacceptable male behavior — the past year saw many women share their stories of enduring sexual harassment from their high-profile bosses and colleagues — along with the recent merging of the Women’s Southern California Golf Association and other women’s golf groups into the SCGA, it’s a good time to assess where we are in this context in golf. It’s a new world, a place where sexual harassers have no home — and that includes the golf course.
How many times have you heard men say inappropriate things to women while playing golf, or to the “cart girls,” women who drive a cart around the course and sell beverages and snacks. The golf course is the real world. It’s not some land far, far away where rules of decency don’t apply.
As a journalist, I have my own stories to tell. For example, when I covered the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines — the last major Tiger Woods won — I was walking just inside the ropes to follow Tiger. Media members usually walk along with a particular group, then kneel down so spectators can see. Woods’ galleries back then were 12-deep or so.
It didn’t happen often, but in that major, for whatever reason, men were shouting obscenities about me being in there with my male counterparts. I was the only one who was questioned about my golf knowledge and told to stay in the kitchen, where I belonged. I showed my press credential to one fan, who was undeterred.
Many spectators seemed like they had way too much to drink, but I, and so many others, need to stop using alcohol as an excuse for poor behavior on the golf course.
If you’re a drunk misogynist, you’re probably a sober misogynist too.
When I was a golf columnist at a newspaper, I had an annual review with my editor and an assistant editor in the office. My boss asked me what I was writing for my golf column that week. I told him I was writing about undergoing a multiple camera analysis of my swing at the Old Greenwood Academy in Truckee, where the instructor deemed that I had a good golf swing. My boss responded, “He must have been horny.”
Neither the other editor nor myself said a word. I was stunned. The only way I could have a good swing was if the instructor was feeling sexual about me?
About a decade ago, I was stopped at the locker room door at the PGA Tour Champions event at Valencia Country Club. I had the same credentials with access to interview players as the other journalists that were with me, but I was told I couldn’t be there because men were changing.
The man guarding the door was an elderly volunteer who deemed his old-school theory that women shouldn’t be in the locker room to be above the rules governing all journalists. That same editor who made an inappropriate comment about my golf swing talked to Tour officials on my behalf, and the problem quickly was fixed.
For the most part, I’ve run into amazing and friendly men and women in the golf world. But sexual harassment of any kind, whether it’s verbal or physical, has no place anywhere anymore. Especially on a golf course.