Not a single person who reads this sentence would be where they are without a woman. In a world of noise and feelings and ambiguous offence, this isn’t an opinion intended to inflame; it is a blunt and biological fact. The same is true for men, of course. But the quieter, more understated interpretation of that fact, when it comes to women, is of more importance than the one day of the year dedicated to recognising it.
Our chances of success today – success being based on our achievements and skills rather than our gender or appearance – arise from the women who have come before us. Thanks to the efforts of innumerable people, those chances are increasing. But in both society as a whole and its microcosm of the golfing world, we still have a way to go.
The 2021 schedule has a record amount of prize money for both the LPGA and the LET. Yet, after this week’s event on the PGA Tour – maybe fittingly, the week of International Women’s Day – the PGA Tour’s prize money for the calendar year will have bypassed those totals. It’s March. There haven’t even been any majors yet.
There are 70 players on the PGA Tour career money list with higher career earnings than the leading LPGA career earner. That LPGA player happens to be one of the most dominant athletes of all time. She has won more majors in the women’s game than 69 of those 70 players have won in the men’s game.
But we are where we are, and role models inspiring change both knowingly and unknowingly are everywhere. I, personally, consider myself ridiculously lucky. I get to do the thing I am obsessed with for a living. I have a chance to achieve success, to receive acclaim, and to be part of a conversation that drives progress. I am indebted to the women who came before, as we all are.
The women who drove us hundreds of miles around the country before we could do it ourselves. Who booked hotels and knew entry deadlines and remembered handicap certificates; who stopped at McDonalds after cold Saturday morning coaching sessions; and gently coaxed driving range sessions on mid-January evenings. Who offered warm, quiet consolation through chocolate bars and always-on-time texts, and unconditional love; and fierce, protective pride, be it for consecutive 65s or missed three footers for painful losses.
The women who raised those women, for embracing technology to type out scoring links with painstaking care, revelling in bridge-club fame and church-congregation chatter. For checking dates and lighting candles and sending good luck texts regardless of circumstance. For loving, unwavering, stubborn belief and a thousand other traits that none of us choose but all of us learn how to use.
For the women who showed us what is possible in golf. Karrie Webb, Dame Laura Davies, Helen Alfredsson and so many more. Who roared through the game with work ethic and immense ability, inspiring generations across the world in ways they will probably never understand. For showing girls that they could be stars in their own right; because they looked like them. And for doing more than they ever needed to; in building legacies – for understanding that admiration and respect sit below appreciation, authenticity and friendship.
For the new wave, opening minds and eyes in a generation not mired down in the stereotypes and traditions and barriers that have come before. People like the Jazzy Golfer and Iona Stephen and hundreds of others who don’t even know they are doing it, helping to embrace a game that is social and active and addictively unachievable – showing that being powerful and beautiful and skillful and athletic don’t all have to be independent of one another.
For the ones in power, breaking through glass ceiling after glass ceiling while protecting others from the shards of glass as they shatter. Becca Hembrough and Alex Armas and Lisa Cornwell, leading the way loudly and unapologetically because they have no reason not to. Because they understand what leadership sounds like – and it isn’t silence.
And for the men who shine a light on women. Martin Slumbers, Mike Whan, Brendon Pyle, Rod Morri, Adrian Logue, Iain Carter, Justin Rose, Niall Horan, Andy Murray and countless others; sponsors who have invested in and supported women’s golf and women’s sport without being told to and without trying to tick a box. When it’s genuine, it’s felt by all of us. And it’s appreciated more than you know.
The ones who have given all of that to me, and so many others. The ones who know who they are, who have loved me and pushed me and allowed me to trust myself. Who have seen and felt the searing disappointments of wasting chances to win, and the disorienting doubt of unfulfilled expectations – as well as the exhilarating highs of fulfilling them: of winning tournaments with eagles and holed putts that only they can see the shaking on.
I get asked occasionally about my writing process. While I’m professional in much of what I do when it comes to golf, I can’t really say the same for my writing. I was trying to sleep on Saturday night, trackman numbers swirling round my head and occasional foot cramps threatening to rip through my calves, and the thoughts and names and examples for this piece suddenly started to form. I reluctantly reached for my phone and started a vague, one-handed tapping, knowing my morning regret would be more if I didn’t do so.
It was only when I came back to it in the morning that I noticed what my sleepy incoherence had managed for the title. Not “for the women”, as I intended.
“For the wine” instead headlined my notes.
And to be honest, that seems just as fitting. So for every woman who keeps shining their light, and every person who helps them do so – knowingly or unknowingly – I’ll raise a glass. Hopefully we can all drink to that.