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The Emily Nash saga proves golf still has a serious gender equality problem

When Emily Nash was denied the trophy she had won fairly because she's a girl, it proved that golf is still way behind the times
 

Working in golf, it seems you have to develop a higher tolerance level for things that are embarrassingly, and worryingly, old-fashioned.

You learn to accept that rules which most people would class as a teeny bit sexist, are merely just “upholding traditions”.

This archaic attitude means that the sport often makes the headlines for all the wrong reasons – admittedly quite helpful when thinking of a subject to write about, but concerning in every other way.

Only last week, the internet went into meltdown when 16-year-old Emily Nash won her school competition, only to be told she couldn’t have the trophy.

Why? Because she is a girl.

Is this still 2017?

Emily carded the lowest score in the boys’ tournament in Massachusetts. She played off the same tees as the other boys and was officially allowed to enter. However, she wasn’t told until afterwards that she couldn’t technically win.

“I was definitely disappointed, but I understand that there are rules in place,” Emily told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

She is way more understanding than I, or most, would be in her position.

This even got the attention of my friends who have no interested in golf. As the assumed women’s golf expert, I was then expected to explain why this was allowed to happen.

But with no way of justifying such an astonishing lack of common sense, all I could fall on was “that’s golf”.

In a sport where gender, rather than ability, determines from where you hit your ball, it’s not hard to believe this happened.

So how was this allowed to happen? A rule from the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association stipulates that girls can enter the tournament as part of a team, but only boys can win.

Emily was probably allowed to enter in the first place because nobody had ever considered the possibility that she would win. So when she did, this association, and unfortunately golf as a whole, were left looking like awful, sexist neanderthals. A public relations disaster on every level.

At best it’s frustrating, at worst upsetting, to think what teenage girls are taking from this tale. If sports are meant to be ‘a training ground for life’, then it’s worrying to think what this demonstrates.

However, it’s not all bad news.

It wasn’t just golfers who were outraged by the decision. Rolling Stone magazine has accused the authority of ‘clearly discriminating based on sex’ and the hashtag #emilywon was soon trending on Twitter.

The LPGA put out a video compilation of the many players who were speaking out to encourage the young golfer, and Annika Sorenstam has now invited her to play in her Annika Invitational.

So at least some good has come out of this farcical situation.

But it does highlight that in 2017, golf is still struggling to cope with the crazy idea that men and women can actually play together.

If golf wants to appear more inclusive and welcoming, rules like these must be the first things to go.

Tom Irwin

Tom Irwin

Tom is a lifetime golfer, now over 30 years playing the game. 2023 marks 10 years in golf publishing and he is still holding down a + handicap at Alwoodley in Leeds. He has played over 600 golf courses, and has been a member of at least four including his first love Louth, in Lincolnshire. Tom likes unbranded clothing, natural fibres, and pencil bags. Seacroft in Lincolnshire is where it starts and ends.

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