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The problem of gender
Sex is something that most people tend to get excited about. Sex, however, has played little part in golf where, although the sexes have always embraced the same rules, they have long enjoyed self-administration. From the onset of ladies golf, with the formation of the St Andrews Ladies Golf Club in 1866, it has been generally accepted that ladies could not compete with men on equal terms. In the 19th century, however, people seemed to know about sex and few appear to have been perturbed about it.

Advances in science and technology have changed the face of golf in recent years and predictably brought problems that ultimately will have to be addressed. Science and technology, however, cannot be held responsible for the issue of gender discrimination that has emerged in society at large and which has finally alighted to question the status quo in golf. Modern medicine can be held accountable in providing gender choice to those who feel uncomfortable with their genetically allotted sex and one wonders if the talented endocrinologists and surgeons who have made this possible appreciated the consequences of their efforts on golf.

Mianne Bagger (pictured) makes history next week as the first woman, who used to be a man, to competein a Ladies European Tour event. Mianne used to be called Michael when she lived in Sweden. Now, after surgery in 1995, Mianne is a tall, willowy, blonde Australian lady who has emerged from the amateur ranks to contest the ANZ Australian Ladies Masters. It was her appearance last year in the Australian Ladies Open that started a chain of events that, together with the move for political correctness in all things relating to gender, has led to the prospect of the Open Championship becoming an absolutely open event. Plans are afoot to make the entry form no longer applicable only to men. It will make no difference whatsoever.

Mianne Bagger is no Annika Sorenstam or Laura Davies. Mianne hits the ball some 220-yards, compared to the big girls' regular 260-270 yards. But not only do the big girls hit it further, they also tend to get it in the hole with a considerably lower stroke average. Mianne is not likely to trouble a great many of the Tour ladies, nor is she likely to make a great deal of money from endorsements for it is hard to see where the money would come from outside of a few peculiar firms in Amsterdam. She may, however, contribute to the Tour coffers by raising the gate money through attracting an altogether new spectator clientele.

Transsexuals are not likely to become commonplace on the Ladies Tour. The hormone treatment and surgery required in transsexual therapy is strength-sapping, so we are not likely to see a flood of also-ran lads casting their lots in with the ladies. What we are likely to see is a backlash with some of the gay-blades insisting on the right to enter Ladies Open events in the process of making a name for themselves.

There is surely no doubt that the R&A is well aware that the re-wording of the entry forms for The Open will have no effect whatsoever on the event. As Annika Sorenstam and Miss Wie have already demonstrated, the gulf between men and women's golf is sufficiently wide that we are not likely to see a woman contest The Open in the foreseeable future.

The most probable outcome of this nod to political correctness will be the re-focusing of the gender police journalists on the golf clubs of St Andrews that have long been gender differentiated. For over 100 years people in St Andrews have simply decided to which gender they subscribed and joined an appropriate golf club. No examination has ever been required and no sex test is associated with an entry application. Clubs in the town co-exist in harmony, irrespective of gender and there is regular and on-going intercourse between them. It may not be a currently politically correct situation but it works well - as it has done for a very long time, predating the stuffy, pompous image that the game acquired in its translation to England.

The R&A may have been particularly astute in re-wording the Open entry form for it removes any problem of gender determination in the future. Administration of The Open Championship is from within the membership of the club and I doubt if members would be quick to volunteer for a Gender Determining Committee.

©    21 - FEBRUARY 2005

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