Women, this blog is a celebration of our collective history through the ages and throughout the world. Amazing stories that have been buried in dusty corners away from the light. Help us to shed light on all these amazing stories. Read our blog and then visit us at the Women's Mercury to learn about our ongoing projects.


To challenge women in the local, national and international communities to find their voices, share their stories, and pass them to the next generation of women through participation in the arts.

Click here to visit us!

"Someone, I say will remember us in the future."

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Oh... Those Women of Summer!

Well, it IS summer, July to be exact -- and while a blog on "Women of the Revolution" springs easily to mind for the 4th -- I avoided that topic altogether and went instead for the more seductive... GOLF.

Yes, believe it or not, this blog is about women in golf. Golf, as far as I'm concerned, is boring. But, the intrigue I'm sure is not so much the little ball or that shiny stick as it is all the glory that golf represents. For centuries, women have taken a back seat in sports, and as a result, have lost out in terms of cultural experience, social dynamics and economic gain.

In the modern world, golf is particularly near and dear to the female heart, because it is such an integral part of the business world and can even have a significant impact on corporate success. Golfer/executives (both male and female) readily admit that numerous business deals and networking opportunities take place on golf greens. So, why shouldn't women want a piece of that action????

The good news is that "Title IX" (the 1972 Federal legislation prohibiting gender discrimination in any federally funded school or college proram) has done a lot to improve female athletics of all types. However, long before Title IX existed, women have been crashing through golf barriers on their own. Here's a quick rundown of some of the exciting golf breakthroughs I discovered. Keep in mind that I know NOTHING about golf, so this may be old news to some, but I found it quite interesting (especially compared to the game itself).

The origin of golf is generally attributed to St. Andrews, Scotland, in the mid-1400's. However, I did find one alternate claim that golf may have actually originated from the ancient Asian game of Chuiwan (dating as far back as 943 AD) involving sticks, small balls and little holes in the ground – sound familiar? A scroll painting entitled "Beautiful Women Playing Chuiwan" by Du Jin (1465-1487 AD) shows several women actively engaged in the ancient sport and making it look surprisingly like golf of today -- only they're wearing long Asian robes instead of shorts, and there are none of those cute little hats.

Meanwhile, back in Scotland... the game was so popular that the King actually banned the sport several times over. Apparently, the soldiers and subjects were so distracted by the game, there was concern that the kingdom's security was in jeopardy. It appears that few subjects heeded the ban, but somehow Scotland still survived. Records show that Mary Queen of Scots herself played the original St. Andrews "course" in 1552 where she coined the phrase we know today as "caddy" when she referred to her assistants as cadets. In 1567, she was criticized for playing golf just a day or two after the murder of her husband. (You go, Mary!)

Oddly enough, it only took 600 years for women to play professionally at St. Andrews. The 2007 Women's British open will be held there in August, marking the very FIRST time that the most famous course in history will host a championship for female professionals.

The world's first women's golf tournament was also held in Scotland, January 9, 1811, but apparently there was no money involved. That tournament was played by the town fishwives (which begs the question "What is a fishwife?", but that's another blog, I think).

In 1867 the first ladies golf club was formed also at St. Andrews. In America, it was in 1891, that the traditionally male Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (on Long Island) opened its doors to include women. Too bad we can't get clubs to do that TODAY!!!

I'm talking about 2003, when Martha Burk, chairperson of the National Council of Women's Organizations, noted that the Augusta National Golf Club (home of the annual Masters golf tournament) was decidedly MALE ONLY. She started a very public campaign targeting the club's discriminatory choice. Club owners and loyalists argued that Augusta National Club is a private club, and therefore not subject to laws governing gender discrimination. Burk and her followers disagreed, saying that Augusta National's connection to the Masters, a public tournament, rendered the club subject to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Legalities aside, Burk also argued that the club had a "moral obligation" to open it's doors a little wider. Sadly, the debate continues. So far, the 300-member club of moslty elderly male social well-to-do's has made no effort to voluntarily change it's policies. As of June 2007, no woman has ever been a member of Augusta National, though women are able to play the course as guests of a member.

As for the players themselves, notable female golfers are (thankfully) far too numerable to recount one-by-one. But, there are a few women who have seriously leveled the playing field by matching or surpassing men at their "own" game.

In 1945, Babe Zaharias was the first female to play against the men in the PGA sponsored L.A. Open. She made two of the first three cuts. In 1990, Juli Inkster became the first woman to win the Invitational Pro-Am at Pebble Beach – the only professional golf tournament in the world in which women and men compete head to head. She won by a one-stroke victory. In 2001, in the Battle of Bighorn, Annika Sorenstam and Tiger Woods took on Karrie Webb and David Duval, for the Lincoln Financial Group prime-time television event. This was the first time male-female teams were used for the event. Sorenstam and Woods defeated Webb and Duval on the 19th hole. And, in 2003 Annika Sorenstam accepted a sponsor’s exemption to play against the men in the PGA Colonial Tournament. Although she did not make the cut, she drew record crowds and television viewers.

And, it’s not just celebs making a difference. In 1991, golf champion Jane Blalock began setting up one-day golf clinics geared for women in the corporate world. The clinic teaches female execs the basics of the game so they can hold their own on the golf course with their male cronies. By 1995, the results were already promising: "Forty percent of all new players are women, and four of every 10 women who are signing up to play are corporate professionals." (Female Executives Crack Glass Ceiling, The Washington Post, August 6, 1995) Hopefully, the numbers have only improved since then.

Then again, Ruth Anderson, who just last month became the very FIRST female board member in one of the so-called 'top four' accounting firms (KPMG), reminds us that "Women can succeed -- in business or elsewhere -- and remain feminine...." Despite her own imposing six foot frame, she gently insists that, "Once women feel they can be themselves without trying to be one of the boys - and can be considerate in the process, this will be real progress." (Feminine women 'can succeed too', BBC, 27 June 2007)

Hmm... perhaps that's what Pamela Anderson was thinking, too, when in 2001 she launched the first annual Bikini Golf Tournament in which the women wore skimpy bikini's, and the men were clad in regular golf attire. (Oh Pamela!!!)

Something tells me Ruth wasn't there....!!!