THE BBC is to be left with only two days of live golf coverage per year from 2017 onwards after it was revealed that the Women’s British Open is following the men’s equivalent to Sky Sports.
In the latest loss of an event currently on free-to-air TV, the Ladies Golf Union and fellow stakeholder IMG have also secured a five-year agreement with the satellite broadcaster for live rights to the Ricoh-sponsored tournament.
It means that, after next year, the only live golf on the BBC will be the final two rounds of the Masters, continuation of which was secured last April in a new “multi-year contract” with Augusta National.
Coming just over a week after it emerged the BBC is to lose live rights for The Open after 60 years, the mirror-image switch of the Women’s Open to satellite television was confirmed in a statement issued to The Scotsman.
“The Ladies Golf Union and IMG can confirm a new five-year broadcast agreement for the Ricoh Women’s British Open with the UK’s two largest sports broadcasters, Sky and the BBC, running from 2017-2021, in an arrangement similar to that announced last week by the R&A for the Open Championship,” it read.
“Sky Sports will provide live coverage of all four days of the Ricoh Women’s British Open in the UK, as it does for The Open, the Masters tournament, the US Open, the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup.
“The BBC, the UK’s widest-reaching free-to-air broadcaster, will offer a one-hour daily highlights segment each evening of the championship.” At one point, the BBC covered 18 golf events but the cupboard will soon be just about bare, with the Scottish Open and PGA Championship also having been lost to Sky Sports in recent years.
While the Corporation initially bid to retain live rights for The Open, a switch of emphasis, which was believed to be down to money, led to it being content with a highlights package.
“It was very, very clear that the BBC were interested in pursuing the highlights option,” revealed Peter Dawson, the R&A’s chief executive, earlier this week in outlining the latest tendering process for the game’s oldest major.
By the looks of things, a similar attitude was applied to the Women’s British Open despite the fact it has also enjoyed a long-standing relationship with the BBC.
The current deal for the LGU’s flagship event takes in this summer’s visit to Turnberry, where it was last staged in 2002, before the end of an era is marked at Woburn next year.
The start of a new one with Sky Sports taking over the live rights will be at Kingsbarns in 2017, when it stages a major for the first time.
Winners of the event on the BBC have included North Berwick’s Catriona Matthew, who claimed the coveted crown at Royal Lytham in 2009 – the first Scottish woman to secure a major title.
Last year’s tournament produced one of the game’s most dramatic-ever finishes as American Mo Martin eagled the 72nd hole to win by a shot at Royal Birkdale.
Meanwhile, the names have been revealed of the seven ordinary members joining the same number of honorary ones in the R&A’s first batch of women members.
They include Angela Bonallack, wife of former R&A secretary Michael but also a six-times Curtis Cup player, Irish legend Claire Dowling and World Golf Hall of Fame member Carole Semple Thompson. Making up the list are Semple Thompson’s fellow American Martha Lang, Canadian Diane Dunlop-Hebert, New Zealander Patsy Hankins and Marion Thannhauser from Germany.
“These members have all made considerable contributions to the game of golf as players and/or administrators,” said Dawson in a letter to members announcing the first batch of ordinary members.
Eight more women in that category will be welcomed into the club over the course of the next two-and-a-half years following last September’s decisive vote to bring down the men-only barriers at the club after 260 years.