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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Is Golf Really For Everyone?

I've used this blog to guide my readers through the lighter side of the Game of Golf, and I promise all of you that I'll do so again.  But I feel that, just for a moment, I want to shift gears and address a more serious and insidious issue that has cast a rather large shadow over this marvelous, universal, inclusive athletic activity.

The game of golf affords unusual and exceptional opportunities for us to engage in athletic competition.    We can all compete against and with each other: young and old, fat and slim, tall and short, black, white, red, yellow, brown.  My golf pal at the Star Fort Ladies Golf Association, Betty Bates, said it best when she reminded me that "Golf is for everyone."

Or is it?  Craig Schaller, a talk radio personality in Rochester, recently issued some remarkably racist remarks that I've already addressed in my Pro Golf Now Blog.  I encourage you to drop in on that post and chime in on the concerns I raised.

Moving beyond Craig Schaller's explicitly racist target, I want to focus more narrowly on women and athletic competition.  Women constitute 25% of the amateur golfers in the US.  The majority of us (women amateur golfers) are over 50.  We're an aging population.  What are we doing to encourage girls into the game?

The LPGA Tour players look like a golf version of the Global Village.  Fully half the field at LPGA tournaments is comprised of women born outside the US.  What's going on here?  I submit that we're not doing a very good job of nurturing our young girls into athletic competition.  Despite Title IX,  and the decades of equality of access and funding, girls sports at the high school and collegiate level are notoriously underfunded and 2nd rate.  Junior golf programs are dominated by boys.  We Americans might want to consider how other cultures encourage their girls into athletic competition.  Imagine the benefits and possibilities that might accrue from a more universal, gender-free playing field?

We girls, with the help and support of our fathers, husbands, brothers, and friends, have managed, over the past 30 years or so, to open the doors of higher education and corporate board rooms and the halls of justice and legislatures.  We have not managed to open and level the playing fields of athletic competition.  We have lessons to learn from Australia, South Korea, Japan, Sweden, Scotland, and Thailand, and Russia, and I submit to you that we could begin making good use of those lessons within the Game of Golf, which should be available for everyone.