IT HAS long been lauded as one of few sports where men and women could play at an equal level, yet the genders have still been kept apart in professional competitions.
But now Scotland is to play host to the world’s first golfing tournament where male and female players will compete side by side.
The inaugural European Golf Team Championships will be played at The Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire in 2018. Gleneagles was home to the first match between British and American professionals back in 1921, sowing the first seeds of the event that went on to become The Ryder Cup.
The event, which will see men and women compete for their countries on the same course at the same time in top-level competition for the first time in the history of the sport. Glasgow itself will be host city to four sports including cycling, rowing, triathalon and swimming.
Paul Bush, director of events at VisitScotland, said: “This is an historic day for golf, with the announcement that both men and women will play for their countries as part of the same competition for the first time.
“There is no more fitting place to host an inaugural event of this kind than in Scotland, the Home of Golf, where the sport was first invented and which, to this day, continues to hold the greatest events in the game.”
He added: “When the idea of a combined European Sports Championships was first mooted for Glasgow and Scotland, we were adamant that it should include a golf event for both men and ladies given our proud history and association with the sport and our reputation for equality. I am delighted that we were able to work with the European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the European Sports Championships to make this happen.”
Bernard Murphy, managing director of The Gleneagles Hotel, said: “It is with great delight that we will be the host venue for yet another world-first in the European Golf Team Championships and we look forward to welcoming the teams and spectators in 2018.”
The Golf event will be staged over five days between 1 to 12 August 2018 and include men’s team, women’s team and mixed team competition in a Match Play format. Two male and female athletes per nation will participate, with the top 16 European nations included.
Funded jointly by the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council, the new event will be run in partnership and allow Glasgow and Scotland to continue to build on the economic and sporting legacy achieved by staging the Commonwealth Games and The Ryder Cup in 2014.
VisitScotland said that Glasgow’s businesses received a direct economic impact of more than £200 million over the period of the Commonwealth Games, while sport is worth a total of £495m a year to the city.
Golf has long been accused of being out of step with the modern world due to the remaining number of men-only golf clubs which exist. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St Andrews, Fife, known as the home of golf, last year voted to allow women to join for the first time in its 260-year history.
In 2003, Vijay Singh, the former Masters champion, refused to play in the same group as Annika Sorenstam, then the world’s leading female golfer, after she received an invitation fromk the sponsor’s of the Bank of America Colonial tournament in Texas. Singh claimed a woman competing against men in the sport was “ridiculous”.