“It’s Just a Man and His Dog Watching”

At some point in the last year, I made a new photo album on my phone. Probably not one of my better decisions and I’m still not sure why I haven’t deleted it, but it was to put all the screenshots of social media backlash I’ve had or seen in response to gender equality statements I (or my friends) have made.

It’s not a particularly pleasant place.

I keep it there in part for an unnecessary motivation; to prove one day to people who will have an argument against women’s sport forever that they are wrong. To prove that it is not and has never been “simple economics”, because “literally nobody watches women’s golf and nobody cares” (see also: “nobody wants to watch it and it’s shite love”), because women are “not marketable” (even though “some of these golfing ladies are fit”) or because I want to “play the entitlement card”, or believe women have “an absolute right to equal prize money”.

I keep it there to remind myself how far there still is to go; for however much progress women’s sport, and golf, is making, a wealth of informed journalists and a healthier tournament schedule are from enough to change perceptions of comparable athletes across the gender divide. Golf is a strange sport because it tries to keep up with the modern world while both reinforcing and refusing to accept its existence in its own self. Golf is not a game for the masses, and I think it is a mistake if it tries to make itself so. It is too demanding, too time-consuming, too frustrating, too technical. As a professional, too emotionally draining.

But trying to change any of those things lessens its beauty. In an age where golf is questioning its identity, wondering how and who should protect it while money tries to come in from dangerous places, its beauty remains prevalent if you keep from drowning in social media dissent. And its beauty can be utilised to address some of its deficiencies. Its beauty can be utilised to make people fall in love with it, both more deeply and for the first time. Its beauty can be utilised to educate the casually sexist commenters on a world beyond their misinformed notions of athleticism and talent and skill, without saying a word.

Its beauty can be utilised in showcases like the Vic Open.

At 13th Beach in Barwon Heads, Australia, stand behind the 7th green – or perhaps in the middle of it – and watch as men and women alike, capable of 350 yard drives and 10 shot margins of victory, of Solheim Cup brilliance and major wins, stand on the tee 105 yards away and wonder how the hell they are going to find the green.

Watch and admire players piece together seven 65s and a 63 in the first round alone – five from men, three from women – in entirely different ways. Watch a brother and sister, separated by just one tee time, go into a final round of a tournament, both with genuine chances of winning. Enjoy not having to be confronted by conditions that saw the final group in round 3 for each the men’s draw and the women’s draw collectively play in 22 over par.

On a course like this, every possible skill is being tested to the extreme. It will not be the player that hits it the furthest who wins, although it may play a part. Power is an essential skill in golf, and it is becoming more so with each year that passes. But it remains far from the only skill required to be successful. Watching players hit drives 350 yards plus is not the only element of enjoyment in watching golf. If it was, there would only be money in long drive contests.
Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan drew crowds and sponsors and fans to the game for a multitude of reasons, not least being they were two of the greatest golfers to ever play the game. As did, and as were, Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb. Not because any of them hit the ball 350 yards.

People come to watch golf. People pay to watch golf. To watch skill and theatre, athleticism and passion, imagination and patience, weaving through the unpredictable predictability of the rise and fall of each character; each actor; each golfer. Each woman, each man.

My ‘argument’ for so long has not been that women simply deserve equal pay as golfers, the end. My argument is simply that in a supply and demand marketplace, if the supplies were given equal treatment, the demand would be much closer together than some people are willing to accept. Equal treatment is where all the questions lie, where all those with stakes in this game must look at themselves and ask if they can do better. Ask themselves what they would say when their daughter asks why playing golf may not be a viable career path when her brother didn’t have to wonder. Ask why it is ok to report on a male losing in the final of a tournament but not a woman winning in the final of the corresponding tournament on the same course at the same time. Ask why it is ok to have 190 pictures of golfers in a magazine and not one of them be of a woman. Ask if you’re really ok with why the winner of a men’s tournament receives a cheque 57 times the amount of the female winner of the corresponding tournament (yes, 57).

Or don’t ask. Don’t ask yourself if you really think that is what we are worth.
Just watch.
Watch a tournament that has already figured out how the world could really work. Should really work.

Find a way to watch the final round of the Vic Open, and pay attention to where the crowds of people are.
That’s why it’s offering equal prize money. Not because the sponsors or organisers feel some moral pressure to have it so.
It’s because the demand says it should be so.

The man and his dog will be there watching. But it won’t just be them.

About megmaclaren

24, English professional golfer and FIU graduate. "Treat people as though they are who they ought to be and you'll help them become what they are capable of being"
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10 Responses to “It’s Just a Man and His Dog Watching”

  1. That”s the reason why I have created my group “LPGA French Fans Team”. I want to change the view about women’s sport through Golf. In any sport, I better like womens, tennis, football, athleticism, the way they play in more pleasant to see than a man able to over drive a woman about 50 yards. And I wonder why media are more focused on records than on beauty of the spectacle.
    I am not rich nor important, but I do my best to promote women’s golf.
    Hope to see you soon during a tournament.

  2. Virgil Mincy says:

    Timely and well stated views. Keep the faith….and play well Down Under.

  3. David Waite says:

    Well said and written Meghan.

  4. Mike says:

    You make some very valid points Meghan the game of golf needs to continually look at itself and keep evolving. It’s a joint male and female sport that needs to bring both genders together for the greater good of the game and to preserve its unique offer to the viewing public.

  5. Loving the Vic Open. How badly golf needs more events like this!

  6. Gary Canada says:

    Golf in Australia has wonderful courses and is now showing the world how to present the game. Great golfers playing the game, spectators appreciating the skills. Golf is the winner. Oh did I mention women’s and men’s games on display.

  7. John says:

    Meg, why do you believe the supplies are not treated equal? What’s driving it? I loved the Vic Open, great courses and challenging conditions. Can’t wait to watch the Aus Open from Royal Adelaide, already set to record. Thought provoking article but still leaves me with questions.👍

  8. Pingback: European Tour stars: Play the Vic Open, show the world what’s possible

  9. Freddi says:

    Ricky Gervais says “arguing with morons on twitter is like correcting graffiti on a public toilet wall that you will never need to use again. Your detractors want you to be as miserable as they are. Don’t let that happen. Let your happiness eat them up from the inside.” He makes a good point.
    The Vic Open was indeed a great event for every man, woman, and dog. While the brother & sister winning combination didn’t quite happen this year, in 2015 Marianne Skarpnord and her fiance both won. Surely a rare feat.

    However I wish to challenge some of your statements about the event. The prize money is equal for both men and women because the Victorian State Government is the major sponsor of the event. They have a legislated policy of gender equality in all its dealing. So have their agencies such as the TAC (Transport Accident Commission), Golf Australia who receive funding from the Australian Federal Government. It has little to do with demand.

    I’m confused by your ‘argument’. Are you talking about appearance money? When you speak of equal treatment of ‘supplies’ Why were only the LPGA players paid to travel to Victoria? All of the big golf events in Australia primarily use public money. This week it will be branded South Australia for Women’s Aus Open.

    Sport is hard. I’m not sure you could pick a harder endeavour for a more lopsided distribution of reward. I’m sure players on many many tours, China, Latin America, Australia, as well as the LET would agree but that has less (not nothing) to do with sexism than the winner take all mentality of modern sport entertainment.

    You say that people pay to see the golf. There is dwindling evidence in Australia. Some years ago the Victorian Government paid Tiger Woods an appearance fee for the IMG organised Australia Masters equal to the total purse – equal in fact to combined Men & Women 2020 Vic Open purse, to play here. The event is no longer run. The Perth International Super 6 was a European Tour event. It also is no longer. The Vic Open was moved out of Melbourne – a city of over 4 million people – and home to some of the most famous courses in the world – how come? Its tough.

    Ps: Gigi my dog and I loved it. Good luck in Adelaide, and keep up the good fight

  10. Pingback: European Tour stars: Play the Vic Open and show the world what’s possible - Handicaps

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