Martin Dempster: Mixed event will showcase talent in women’s golf

LET player Meghan MacLaren in action. Picture: Stuart Franklin/Getty
LET player Meghan MacLaren in action. Picture: Stuart Franklin/Getty
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Forget GolfSixes, which is a fun event but not necessarily a game changer. Neither, for that matter, will the sport’s newest innovative tournament be, but it looks more appealing in terms of what the face of golf might be in 20 or so years.

This week’s Jordan Mixed Open is a ground-breaker, featuring players from the Ladies European Tour, Challenge Tour and Staysure Tour, the branded name for the European Senior Tour, locking horns in the same stroke-play tournament over 54 holes.

It would have been even better, of course, if the European Tour was also represented, but let’s cut the organisers some slack and see how things pan out at Ayla Golf Club in Aqaba with these three groups of players as a test, so to speak.

Each circuit is being represented by 40 players, with rising stars such as Marianne Skarpnord and Meghan MacLaren flying the LPGA flag; Calum Hill heading the Challenge Tour hopefuls and the golden oldies including former Ryder Cup players Barry Lane, Philip Price and Jarmo 
Sandelin.

The course will measure 7,152 yards for the Challenge Tour contingent, 6,601 yards for the Staysure Tour players and 6,139 yards for the LET members, the objective being to have competitors hitting approach shots to the greens with the same club.

“This is an important development for the long-term health of our sport,” said Price, the Welshman who famously beat Phil Mickelson in singles in the 2002 Ryder Cup at The Belfry.

“It’s not every week you get to participate in an event that has the potential to change the course of history. Twenty years from now, we may just look back on this as the start of a new chapter in professional golf.”

There are some who won’t even be prepared to give this event a chance, believing that the women’s game lacks any sort of appeal. That’s unjustified, though. There are lots of fine women golfers out there and, for players such as MacLaren, this opportunity is exactly what LET players need to show off their talents.

“We need as much attention and publicity as possible,” said the English player in an interview with the i, our sister newspaper. “One of the best things about golf is its capacity to accommodate mixed ability. Go to any golf club this weekend and there will be mixed events going on, men and women playing together. This is something the professional game could profit by.

“The average male golfer is missing out so much by not being exposed to women’s golf because distance-wise it is more relatable. There is so much to appreciate about the women’s professional game. The scoring is just incredible and that reflects the skills on show. People have a misconception that women’s golf is not good enough. That’s just not true. We have the product, it just needs to be showcased more.”

That will certainly happen this week. In addition to the event in Jordan, the opening women’s major of the season, the ANA Inspiration, takes place in California. This week also includes the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur, an event featuring 72 players from around the world, with the final round on Augusta National on Saturday.

It remains to be seen if the latter will have any impact in terms of helping improve a situation whereby women only provide 13.5 per cent of the total golf club members in Scotland. But the launch of On The Dance Floor, a new podcast in the home of golf which focuses on the women’s game is certainly something that has the potential to make an impact on that sorry statistic.

Sports broadcaster Emma Dodds, who came up with the idea and hosts it along with Edinburgh-based American LET player Beth Allen, said: “As someone who has worked within professional golf for a number of years, I am hugely motivated to highlight the brilliance that exists within the women’s game,” she said. “We’re well aware of the disparities that exist in golf such as media coverage and prize-money, but we can only start to change that by talking about it.

“By raising awareness with informative coverage, personal perspectives and insightful interviews, we aim to shine a well-deserved light on professional women’s golf. We also want to showcase the sport to the next generation and highlight the value of investing to prospective sponsors, thus driving additional 
revenue.”