Judy Rankin commentating

Mike Johnny: Larger Than They Appear

As I write this, it is International Women’s Day and the #Golfchat Authors have a monthly topic to contribute to, Women’s Objectification in Golf Media. There are many places to take a topic like this and issues of social media, objectification, demographics, sexuality and history are all themes which I am certain we will see woven throughout submissions. Any my guess is that some authors will explore the issue from a deficit model, or, what is not right about the role of women in the game today.

All understood, all recognized. However, I am going to try to take a different approach. Here, I want to look at the richness of the game because of women’s participation and where golf media gets it right. I am not trying to put my head in the sand here. I want to look at this issue and let people know there are success stories; there is some good taking place. I am an optimistic person and believe we all have an ability to affect positive change. Our attitudes and behaviours matter and today, while we pause to reflect and respect the incredibly important role of women in the world, here’s what I love about women’s engagement in golf.

My favourite golf commentator is Judy Rankin. It’s not even close between her and a second choice. She is a consummate professional. She is intelligent, articulate, engaging and honest. Her knowledge comes from experience on the LPGA Tour as a 26-time winner and World Golf Hall of Fame member. She takes the time to get to know the players and helps viewers build important connections to them as golfers. I like the fact that the team during LPGA coverage is focused on their professional roles. The fact that she is women is irrelevant to me, she’s just excellent in her role and I appreciate her work.

Juxtaposed to this is Morning Drive (and I use that only as an example). Here, I struggle to make sense of why the male co-hosts can enjoy a relaxed role – khakis, maybe even spikeless golf shoes. Women? Cite the day where any co-host has not had on a dress and likely heels (on odd occasion one may wear flat shoes), which makes any demonstration of golf skill awkward. This shows the pervasiveness of the issue in question.

Last summer I had a chance to play a semi-private course in Toronto, called The Ladies Golf Club. I wrote a course review and while the course was designed by one of Canada’s foremost golf course architects, Stanley Thompson, the person most important to its development is Ada Mackenzie. Her story of a woman golfer seeking greater access for play in Canada around 1920 is well documented. Her perseverance and drive resulted in the development of TLGC in 1924.

This course “is the only private golf club in North America where women have priority access to tee times, and where both women and men can enjoy golf in a welcoming atmosphere.” And while Ada was battling for greater access for golf for women around the time of women’s suffrage there is a more pervasive challenge for women as they choose to enter into the world of golf. Cassie Norris, fellow #Golfchat author and blogger wrote a brilliant piece that shows the extent of this issue today for her as a young woman new to the game of golf. Beyond that, Cassie makes important contributions to golf through her blog and coordination of #Golfchat.

It’s no longer 1924 but the challenges of Cassie’s participation in this game are – in my opinion – only wrapped with new and more modern layers of pervasive gender bias. So today, of all days, it is important for us to understand the contributions that women make to our world. Many of us will look to our mom, maybe daughter or a friend as a woman who have inspired and supported us.

Drawing from this process and in the spirit of the day here are some ideas we can employ to make golf less the ‘boys club’ Cassie wrote about. Some simple ideas for golfers – scrap the term ‘Ladies Tees’ and let’s call them Forward Tees; consider support for Fairways Fund which provides opportunity for young boys and girls to play this game; and embrace anyone who is new to the game – boy, girl, man, women.

It’s all about respect. Golfers can understand that one, but let’s expand the circle of respect to everyone who participates in the game, in any capacity. I really believe our individual actions can truly make a difference.

Follow Mike on Twitter @36aday

mike_johnny_bio_picGolf writer and blogger at 36aday.net. Seeking to cross courses off my Canadian course bucket list. One ace! Proud father. GJAC Associate.

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