What's the Big Deal about women being allowed to play in male-dominated golf tournaments?
In 2007 Elaine Joyce, 45, a software designer from Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts, successfully sued the town of Dennis along with its two town-owned golf courses, Dennis Pines and Dennis Highlands. She claimed the town discriminated against her on the basis of sex violating the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Commonwealth’s public accommodation statute. Blah, blah, blah.
Apparently when she tried to play in a member-member tournament with her father, Patrick Joyce, she was told it was for men only. That was her last straw. After all, she’d been playing these courses since she was a kid and had become a very decent golfer with a single digit handicap. Why shouldn’t she be able to play?
Joyce claimed she wanted to play in tournaments with men because “You play against people who are as good as you or better than you if you want to get better.”
Joyce said she wanted more competition and saw no reason she should be barred from playing in any tournament, men’s included, so she sued.
If that’s her reason, I’m thinking she has golf mixed up with tennis. I understand it’s good to play against someone as good or better than you in tennis, but golf? Not so sure that flies as a strong enough reason to sue an entire town.
Will none of the low-handicap women in her area play with her if she’s looking for golfers as good as she is so she “can improve?”
And here’s the thing: Four months before she sued, Dennis voted to adopt the Massachusetts Golf Association and United States Golf Association’s non-gender-biased tournament rules and regulations.
It would seem that would do it. Joyce could play with the men. But this wasn’t enough. She sued because according to her attorneys, “she had been ostracized, marginalized, humiliated, embarrassed and denounced in a manner that had come to her at a very high personal cost.” Poor girl.
Fact is, generally men would whip the ladies, no matter how hard women hit the gym, no matter how tall they are or how far they can drive. Even though Michelle Wie can rip it more than 320 yards, most women simply don’t have the same core muscles that men have.
Would having women be able to enter men’s tournaments be truly good for the game - for the business of golf? And speaking to equality, if women could enter men’s tournaments, why couldn’t men enter ladies events? Would they want to?
Follow the money. Take the guy who is one zillionth on the money list. His mortgage payment is due, his wife is having a baby and he can’t buy a putt. The idea of entering a ladies event with a juicy purse where he could win enough to cover his life style, could be very appealing.
At the risk of sounding like Fred Flintstone in cleats, I’m thinking major tournaments should be kept separate except for events that provide a forum for mixed teams to compete like charity events and special club tournaments which are great fun for everyone.
And maybe we’re missing the whole point. Could it be this is not a conversation of gender, money or publicity but a conversation about heart. About girls who try out for the boy’s high school golf team. About the U.S.Open, in 1913 in Brookline, Massachusetts when a 20-year-old caddie named Francis Ouimet was strongly discouraged from playing. But guess what? He won.
Remember the movie “Tin Cup” when a washed up driving range pro named Roy McAvoy described the U.S. Open as having the most equanimity of all tournaments, because anyone with the required handicap could try and qualify for it?
Roy said, “it doesn’t matter if you’re a lousy driving range pro whose check is signed by a stripper, because as long as you shoot low enough against those similarly competing for the available spots, your in.”
Can women desiring to enter men’s tournaments be more about reaching for the previously unattainable? If so, that’s a whole different thing. Here we’re talking about spirit.
Just as Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias, arguably the greatest athlete of any gender in the 20th century, was quoted as saying, “The Babe is here. Who’s coming in second?”
I consider Joyce’s lawsuit another of those awful frivolous litigation deals. Don’t our courts have more serious things to tie them up than this stuff? Joyce is now waiting for the jury to award her damages up to $500,000. Did I mention, follow the money?
I hope she gets 1 cent and a lollypop. I’m thinking sour cherry.
Note: The PGA Tour, by the way, limits the field according to ability, not gender while the LPGA states in its bylaws that no men may compete. And U.S. Open means “Open” - that’s why Wie, Suzy Whaley and Annika Sorenstam gave it a shot.
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While I agree with much of your post, why do you spread the fiction that Bubbles (Wie) can rip it 320 yards? Sure, maybe way downhill, downwind and with a firm fairway. She doesn't even hit the ball close to that, as her driving stats on the LPGA evidence.
Let's keep it real and stop perpetuating myths that made an over-rated, over-hyped ego-and-mouth con artist 100 million dollars.
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