Quite often we spend time criticizing what is wrong with the game of golf: too many rules, discrimination, affordability issues, mandatory carts, long drawn-out rounds, not enough ‘Green’ or environmental practices in building or maintaining courses, too many mind-boggling swing theories, and equipment overload. While all of these are certainly issues to be hashed out over 19th Hole drinks and conversation, I can’t help but recall the early days, pre-Title IX, when discrimination toward women in the game ran rampant. In some ways, it still does. Back then, I had to rebel and fight simply to play the game. Bearing a thorn in the side aimed at men who tried to keep me out might be justified; but at the same time, reflecting on how my life in golf has evolved, I’d be remiss by not admitting it was mostly men who helped turn the tide.
Forty years ago I shagged golf balls on vacant fields in inner-city Detroit. Today, my privileged role as an international golf and travel writer and business consultant in the golf world amazes me. What I’m truly thankful for are the men who helped me get here: renowned Detroit News and Detroit Free Press golf writer Jack Berry, who not only wrote about women’s golf when few did, but who also fought for my right to enter the Michigan Women’s Amateur when it was closed to public players; Wayne State University college coach Joel Mason, who believed in Title IX and immediately accepted me on the men’s golf team – granting a golf scholarship as well; former Golf Digest CEO Jay Fitzgerald, who rerouted an all-male America’s 100 Greatest Courses ratings panel, bringing me and twelve other women onboard in 1991; and for my Dad, who started it all when he refused to exclude his little girl from playing sports alongside her brothers, which in the 1960’s, was all too commonplace.
And then there are special thanks which cannot go unheralded: kudos to the course owner who unjustly and stridently berated me for slow play as a teenager; as the only woman in a foursome of men – two who were beginners and the third who was notoriously slow – of course it was the girl who slowed play to a snail’s pace…..who else could it be? This prompted vows to never, ever, take that kind of abuse again…..and I haven’t.
Circa 1810: The first known women’s golf tournament was held in Scotland; the prize for first place? A fish basket. Jump forward to 1975 when the gentleman running the afore-mentioned tournament did not anticipate a woman winning his golf event. Unprepared, he scanned the clubhouse looking for something appropriate to present as a prize…….there……that sewing basket on a back shelf display. That should do it……. which begs the question: why was a sewing basket even on display in the clubhouse?
I still have the sewing basket. Could have used the fish basket.