Home » From the Rough

Van de Velde rolls up skirt, wades right on in - to misogyny

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

I'm seriously thinking about shaving my legs, applying eye-liner and applying for a job at Women's Golf magazine.

Tit for tat, excuse the expression and the bad pun.

My inspiration, of course, is Jean Van de Velde, the wacky Frenchman. Van de Velde is steamed about the decision of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club's recent decision to allow women to quality for next year's men's British Open (Yes, I'm calling it the BRITISH Open for a purpose, rather than simply the Open, as the UK snobs insist).

In any case, Van de Velde is now saying he intends to apply for entry into next year's Women's British Open. This is the same guy who made a fool of himself in 1999 at Carnoustie by rolling up his trousers and wading into the water in a futile, though hilarious, attempt to invent the underwater, submarine, French scoop shot.

His latest escapade is just as hilarious. What is it with these guys who insist on locking doors to women? One answer is obvious: They don't want to finish lower than the babe and be subjected to ridicule from their fellow men. That's easy to understand, if not defend.

One of these days, Annika Sorenstam or Michelle Wie, or somebody else, is going to make the cut at a PGA Tour or European PGA Tour event and do some serious damage. It will have to be the right course, and under the right conditions, but it will probably happen someday.

This issue used to come up in my old sportswriting days: Female sportswriters covering the NFL or Major League Baseball or the NBA insisting on being let into the locker room. How could they cover the event if they couldn't talk to the players, as their male counterparts could? It caused a commotion back then, with all sorts of dire predictions: You'd have thought an orgy was going to break out, with tight ends and wide receivers all jumbled up with the female sportswriter from the Paducah Tribune, rolling around on the locker room floor.

You had the usual male sportswriters who took the Van de Velde route, insisting that they, in turn, be allowed into the women's locker room. It all passed, of course, because the locker room - any locker room - is about the most asexual place you could ever come up with. Smelly towels and sweaty clothes don't really make for a romantic setting, though I'm sure there are fetish clubs somewhere who might get into that.

What you ended up with were some very nervous female sportswriters who gave new meaning to the act of looking into their subject's eyes. Athletes took the unprecedented step of covering themselves with towels. Everybody got used to it and no one got pregnant or slapped with a palimony suit.

This will pass, too, even if golf is ruled by bodies more conservative than their governing counterparts - note European Tour chief George O'Grady's tepid response to women playing in men's events, calling it a "gimmick".

It will pass when dunderheads like Van de Velde finally realize that some women are only trying to be the best they can be, to test themselves against the best competition in the world. What's wrong with Wie dreaming of playing in the Masters some day?.

The presumed logic of people like the nutty Frenchman saying men should be allowed to play in women's events if the reverse is allowed is just a smoke screen. He's an exclusionist, a sexist and maybe even a misogynist - and the worst part is he probably doesn't even know it. Van de Velde should join Augusta. Despite his accent and trouser-rolling, he'd fit right in.

It will happen because the sponsors, not necessarily women, want it to happen. TV ratings will go up. Sponsors will get more exposure. They will make more money. Golf will make more money, and money tends to soften principle.

You could envision a day when several women, maybe more, may be good enough to play in men's events. This isn't a contact sport we're talking about here. It's a game of power and finesse. Women will never rule the upper echelons of men's golf, so take it easy all you male worriers. Let the women seek and find their own level in the game. It should be interesting.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Females in men's tournaments

    Len Pietras wrote on: Nov 4, 2005

    The entry form for some female golf tournaments, possibly all, very clearly states that the entrant must have been born female. If the true desire is for equality among all, why should not the entry form for all men's golf events state that the entrant must have been born a male? The other form of true equality would possibly be for all events to be open to all individuals regardless of gender. Have a qualifier for all events, for a certain number of spots, and allow the qualifier to be open. I wonder how many guys would attempt a qualifier for a female tournament and risk the ridicule of failing at that point?