I can’t say I had any interest in the TaylorMade Driving Relief match that took place at Seminole, last weekend. Sure, it was great to see live golf again… although few people on this side of the water seemed overly impressed with the course or the anticipated banter… that never happened. And the bizarre President Trump interview was a major turn-off even if it did prove that the Mute button is probably the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Still, watching Rory hit a ball is always enjoyable.
It has started a new thrust at live Professional golf in the Covid age, with Woods and Mickelson pairing up with two NFL legends for another face-off match this Sunday. It is also for charity.
The trouble is, as excited as some have got over the McIlroy/Johnson/Fowler/Wolff skins match, an issue raised its head very quickly. Most potently, it was raised by Mel Reid, the English professional golfer who plays on the Ladies European Tour, and is a six-time winner.
She took to Twitter with a message that suggested an opportunity had been missed:
“I know right now is a tough time for most so I can only speak for the world I’m involved in. Yet again, today we show the disparity between men’s and women’s golf. Today’s charity event should showcase ‘golf’ not just men’s golf. What an opportunity golf has let slip, once again, to represent equality. I would love to have witnessed women athletes/golfers be invited to showcase the wonderful game as well as these incredible male golfers.”
And, as a result, she was vilified. But she was right.
The event raised over €5.5 million for the American Nurses Foundation and CDC Foundation, two of the organisations fronting COVID-19 relief efforts. The broadcast was hugely popular and became the best performing show on Sky Sports since the lockdown began. In the US, NBC recorded 2.35 million viewers across their platforms which is 16% higher than the viewing figures for the Dell Match Play final last year, when Kevin Kisner beat Matt Kuchar.
There’s no question that the golfers involved are among the very best in the world and lots of people tuned in as live golf kicked off after several weeks of back garden lessons (take a bow, Padraig Harrington) but the match was about raising money for charity and entertainment. It wasn’t about shooting low scores or winning. It was about the love and joy of the game… a game that embraces men and women, young and old.
I, for one, would have been a lot more entertained if each pair was mixed. Different banter, different fun and very different entertainment.
Would it have increased or decreased the audience? Or the amount of money raised? Who knows! Perhaps more women and girls would have been enticed to watch (and inspired to take up the game)… perhaps more men would have tuned out.
And that’s the problem. The reaction to Mel Reid’s tweet drew the usual sexist responses about women golfers not being good enough and who wants to watch that! Of course it was hidden behind the transparent excuse of ‘it’s for charity so only the best golfers will do’. As made clear by one Jack Laffey:
“It’s a ****ing charity event And you need to turn it into a gender issue NO ONE WANTS TO WATCH WOMENS GOLF Now f*** off and give it a rest”
She did garner support as well (from both sexes). This from @anya_alvarez:
“By organizing an event that included men and women, they would have drawn a larger audience because there are many golf fans who only watch the @lpga – Instead, a gross oversight was made once again by dorks who undervalue the value of female athletes.”
If there was a time, if there was an opportunity to pitch the men’s and ladies’ games alongside each other, then this was surely it. We keep being told that we’re all in this together. So why not make it together.
So, to all the people who organised and promoted the event, let’s do it again with mixed pairs… and on a golf course that raises the blood pressure above a yawn.
* Fight for your Right was a hit for the Beastie Boys in 1986.