European Tour Missed a Trick by Not Embracing Women
IT HAS to be said that the European Tour has missed a trick with its new schedule. A host of tournaments are to be held in the UK as professional golf slowly returns to some kind of normality. But why on earth did they not take the opportunity to co-host a couple of events with the Ladies European Tour?
Bearing in mind that the decision has already been taken to do away with qualifying school, meaning that nobody runs the risk of losing their playing privileges, why didn’t they reach out to Europe’s women? These are the same women who held us rapt last year when they won the Solheim Cup in such thrilling fashion at Gleneagles.
This was meant to be the year when the LET finally took off. A joint news conference in January brought together the LET and LPGA with support from the European Tour and R&A. So, what happened to that support from the European Tour?
The LET's planned schedule, with 24 tournaments and record prize money, has been destroyed. As the men's game prepares to come out of lockdown, the women's game remains in a state of flux.
The European Tour has announced its comeback with six British tournaments starting in July. They will compete for around £900,000 each week, but there was nothing for the women to celebrate. The UK Championship is being played at The Belfry, where there are two courses. Why is there not a UK Women’s Championship being staged there at the same time?
Solheim Cup player Mel Reid spoke about this on BBC Radio 5 Live's The Guest List. The Florida-based Englishwoman said: "It's a great opportunity, especially in golf - where we can have some mixed events and really bring the game to be more modern. I do think golf has been left behind a little bit compared to the progression of other sports.
"Now is a perfect time to reset. Why not throw in some new and fun events that have never been done before?” Golf will surely look back on this as a huge missed chance, with the women once again being treated like second-class citizens.
The inaugural Scandinavian Mixed event hosted by Swedes Henrik Stenson and Annika Sorenstam was supposed to be held this month. European Tour men and women would have competed on the same course for the same prize.
European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley, who is a forward-thinking man, was keen to harness the growing appeal of women's sport. "The women professionals bring a different dynamic and fanbase to the game," he has said. "All of which improves our sport - and we look forward to building a strong women's professional presence.” So why hasn’t he done so?
There is no play scheduled on the LET until August's Evian Masters. In the meantime, former British Open champion Georgia Hall, along with Charley Hull, has entered an unofficial tournament at Brockenhurst Manor in Hampshire on June 18. It is being organised by LET player Liz Young. It is a bad joke that players of the standing of Hall and Hull are reduced to this.
Each competitor must pay £125 to create a prize fund for what will be the first women's professional event since the easing of lockdown restrictions.
Meanwhile in the United States, the LPGA hopes to restart in mid-July with a 21-tournament schedule.
Reid said: "It is hard to see your friends who have been on tour for such a long time and had a couple of not-so-great seasons having to reconsider whether they can support themselves."
Reid, who has played in three Solheim Cups and was a vice-captain when Europe beat the United States at Gleneagles last year, now worries for the collaboration between the LPGA, where she is now based, and her home tour.
"That's exactly what the LET needed and with the help of the men's European Tour as well," she said. "Of course a world crisis has happened, and there's way worse things going on, but I'm really nervous for it."
LPGA Tour commissioner Michael Whan has attempted to assure the LET that it will not be abandoned by his tour.
"It's not like the men's game, where they're going to play in a couple of weeks on the PGA Tour and they have the financial resources to make it very safe for players and caddies,” said Reid. "We just don't have that kind of financial support. We can't afford to have everyone in the same hotel, to charter flights from one tournament to the next and so it's going to be more of a difficult task for us to get going again."
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