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EQUALITY IN GOLF
What wonderful timing by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews! I was woken by a call from a sports radio channel asking me what I thought about the R and A's announcement about women. "It's Margaret Thatcher's 80th birthday" I thought. "They've made her the first woman member." Not a bit of it. It was just to say that women would be allowed to pre-qualify for the Open Championship. Big deal. Now if you'd made Maggie a member and asked the Princess Royal to be your captain it might have been of interest!
Well, where does one start? The whole equality issue in golf is barking. The injustice is absurd. The game is old fashioned but I love it. Equality has a number of issues. It isn't just equality for women, but equality for real people. Blacks, Jews, old, young, women. people who went to public school and those who didn't, people with handicaps and those without (CONGU variety not physical), people who are termed professional and those who earn their living from the game but are amateurs. The list goes on and on. But where on earth do you start. Where?
I guess the whole equality issue is summed up in this. Whenever I go to a women's tournament the organiser thanks in order the club captain who started everyone off the tee, the ladies who did the flowers, the ladies who did the cards, the men who ball spotted, and the catering staff. The people they never, ever thank are the poor devils on the green keeping staff who started their day at 4.30 a.m., cutting the greens under headlights and getting the course in immaculate order. Why? Because that is the pecking order. Ladies who do flowers - down to men who cut greens. The geenkeepers , indeed, are so low in value, that when asked by home club members what they thought of the greens, the typical visitor is quite likely to respond that the greens indeed were splendid but the peas and carrots even better. It's all about pecking order.
So, in most clubs the pecking order goes something like this. Past presidents and captains, ordinary men members, junior members, dogs, ladies, artisans, professionals and greenkeepers. In some clubs the ladies fall below juniors, dogs and artisans. In some, they have risen above one or more categories.
When we think of professional golfers we think of Tiger Woods or Anneka Sorenstam. In truth, the majority of professional golfers in the UK spend their time in a pro shop, serving Mars bars to the members and visitors. "And how did you get on today, Sir? 71. That's excellent. Well done. And what handicap do you play off? 22. Well that's excellent". In reality, he thinks, "My god, the poor devil, he went round in 93. I don't suppose he can hit his way out of a paper bag. And what a waste all that smart equipment. Silly fool's got an 8 degree driver. No good telling him that Bobby Jones had 8 degrees on his putter, so of course he slices. Poor devil won't have heard of Bobby Jones and better just to let him slice and sell more balls."
The professional may well not be allowed to venture into the clubhouse unaccompanied. I broke new ground when I was the first professional golfer allowed into a rather smart golf club in Yorkshire in the 1980's. Justified by the fact that I was also a solicitor (and the club captain was a judge) - but mainly because there wasn't a ladies' loo in the pro's shop.
"Oh, and I see from your tie that you are a club president". (That little P on the tie is such a subtle giveaway.) "Yes, Sir we are always glad to give courtesy of the course to club presidents. And your wife is the lady captain of hers. Well now that's a little different. I have to check with the club secretary. No I am so sorry. And your son plays off plus 3 and is a junior international. Now regrettably we can't make any concessions for him. But, you Sir, as a club president ... we are delighted."
Heaven help us. The poor lad off plus three has to cough up a full green fee. But the president .....
Golf, indeed, must be the only sport where so many people reach high office with absolutely no knowledge of or skill at the game!
Oh, and how about those nauseating honours boards. CLUB CAPTAIN and LADY CAPTAIN. Are there two sexes - club and lady? They don't even realise they do it!