Ladies European Tour star Meghan MacLaren explains why mixed male-female tournaments are vital for golf’s future.
By the time you read this, the Scandinavian Mixed on the Ladies European Tour and the European Tour will have taken place. You will already know what stories it throws up; who ultimately comes out on top; who shines and who grinds – and, perhaps most importantly, how the competition among both male and female players comes across.
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I played in one of the first attempts in professional golf to produce such a format, and it’s impossible not to have reflections on that as I head into this week in Sweden. The Jordan Mixed Open in 2019 brought together players on the Ladies European Tour, the European Challenge Tour, and the Legends Tour (formerly the Staysure Tour). The three tours played off three different sets of tees – aimed at balancing out the physical differences causing disparities in distance and spin – for one trophy; one winner. The tours put a tremendous amount of effort into getting the course set-up right.
Despite not carrying the clout of a Major or a PGA Tour event with star names and matching media rights, the Jordan Mixed Open was genuinely a groundbreaking moment for golf.
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It showed one of the many unique distinctions that our beloved sport has – the ability to create competition across genders and ages. Many of you reading this may well play mixed events regularly at your golf clubs, or have regular playing partners many years older or younger than you, though I’m sure all of those factors barely, if ever, register in your mind when you play. That, as far as I can tell, is the aim of these events in the professional ranks.
To show golf fans that golf, as a sport, does not know who is hitting the golf ball. It cares only who takes the fewest shots.
For what it’s worth, I came second in the Jordan event. I actually held the lead going into the final round and should (in my opinion) really have won, but golf throws heartbreak at us on a regular basis. I say that not for sympathy or respect, but to highlight a point I hope you may have noticed if you caught the Scandinavian Mixed.
Golf professionals are golf professionals. My hurt at not winning in Jordan had nothing to do with the fact I am a woman – and likewise Daan Huizing, the Challenge Tour player who outlasted me that week, did not feel overwhelming satisfaction and vindication at winning because he is a man. The beautiful thing about sport is the stories it scripts; the emotions it evokes. Every last one of us is capable of being a part of that; of feeling that.
I have two main takeaways from playing mixed events. One, as I have just tried to explain, is its sense of normalcy. As a professional golfer, the Jordan Mixed Open did not feel strange, or unique. I went there aiming to do the best I could with the game I had, as I do at every tournament I play – as I think almost every professional (and amateur) golfer does every time they tee up. I prepared myself from Monday to Wednesday to give myself the best possible chance of success. As did 120 other players from three different professional tours. Male or female, young or old(er), as professional golfers our job is exactly the same.
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That, I think, is the biggest lesson for everyone. My second takeaway was an immense sense of pride. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the Scandinavian Mixed, though you now will. But I am proud to be a member of the Ladies European Tour. I am proud to be a part of women’s golf and to represent it.
Performing as I did in the Jordan event brought that home to me in a more powerful way than I can ever explain. As women, we are still undervalued both in our particular profession and in the world as a whole. Our achievements are not deemed as significant, our time, ability and worth not as valuable.
You may have your own opinions on that, and I welcome those conversations – because the way I see it, the underlying reason for that will be awareness. You cannot judge fairly what you do not see. The level of support I had from my LET peers and women across golf was because they knew this was a chance for more of the world to see.
We all have far more in common than not, particularly this sport that unites us. I am proud to be a part of it. I hope you value what we all can offer it… and offer each other.
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