TROON, SCOTLAND | Ruth Davidson, the main guest at a forum ahead of Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open where gender was on the agenda, was every bit as outspoken as you would expect about the need for equality in sport. Not only that, but the leader of the Scottish Conservative party voiced her views on how best to sort out the situation. “Politicians,” she said, “need to be the champions of women’s sport.”
Davidson firmly believes that at least 50 percent of the money which the government gives to the various governing bodies in sport should be used on girls. “At the moment, the money that goes into boys’ sport and girls’ sport is a long way from being equal.”
On the same tack, she cited a shocking statistic concerning how, when it comes to sports’ sponsorship in Scotland, only 4 percent of the sponsorship money goes to women. In which connection she paid tribute to Aberdeen Asset Management for upping the first prize for the Ladies Scottish Open to $250,000. It may trail some way behind the $1 million plus winner’s cheque handed out to the winner of their men’s Scottish Open, but it represents significant progress just the same.
Later in the day, Beth Allen, leader of the Ladies European Tour’s Order of Merit in 2016, was part of a panel concerning ways and means of encouraging women into sport and sports’ leadership. Allen, a Californian now living in Scotland who plays on both the LPGA and the LET, said that Scotland seems to be doing a lot right. She knows about Muirfield and the handful of other clubs in Scotland who have been so slow to move forward when it comes to taking women members. However, she said that she herself had always found golf in Scotland to be very friendly, very affordable. “In Scotland, unlike in California, you don’t have to dish out a five-figure sum to join a private club. Scotland’s got it right.”
Asked about what matters most to girls in golf, Allen suggested that nothing was as important as keeping the game “cool.” She said that dress codes needed to be relaxed and that there needs to be more Lexi Thompson-type role models. “When I’m on the LPGA Tour, Lexi stands out as a fan favourite. You always see tons of girls in the galleries dressed like her.”
All the speakers were agreed that there needs to rather more Andy Murrays among the male sporting fraternity. “All the tennis girls love him,” said Sheila Begbie, head of women’s and girls’ rugby at the Scottish Rugby Union. She was thinking of how, given half a chance, Murray will always pull up the media when they forget to mention the women in the same breath as the men.
Begbie also gave a mention to the Scottish Football Association who have stated that their main goal over the next five years is to give priority to women’s and girls’ football. “Other sports need to be as brave as they’ve been in making that kind of a statement.”
Clive Woodward, the head coach at England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup and the man who worked with Luke Donald when he was playing some of his best golf, said that golf had wasted its chance at last year’s Rio Olympics. In his opinion, it needed a mixed format rather than your usual 72-hole stroke-play arrangement.
Allen, for one, thought that would be “awesome,” while she also gave an approving chuckle to the idea of turning the Ryder and Solheim cups into a mixed venture.