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Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden

A North Central College golfer tees off with an iron at the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship in 2011.

A North Central College golfer tees off with an iron at the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship in 2011.

Photo courtesy of North Central College (CC BY 2.0)

A North Central College golfer tees off with an iron at the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship in 2011.

Photo courtesy of North Central College (CC BY 2.0)

Photo courtesy of North Central College (CC BY 2.0)

A North Central College golfer tees off with an iron at the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship in 2011.

Laura Slater, Staffer

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Golf is an age-old and well known sport with roots in ancient Rome and 15th century Scotland. It’s often popular belief that the word “golf” is an acronym, usually standing for ‘Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden.’ While “golf” really just means “club” in an older language, the gist of that acronym is unfortunately well-suited to today’s game.

While it has been recorded that women played golf long ago, you wouldn’t be able to tell today. It seems as though women exist on some lower tier in the professional golf circuit – less money, less attention, less recognition. The men may hit farther, but the women are formidable players in their own right, and driving distance is no excuse for discouraging salary numbers. The general gender wage gap in the country hovers somewhere around 82% – women make 82 cents to a man’s dollar, while the professional golf wage gap currently lingers at about 45% – women make 55% less than the men do in prize money (Saffer). While this is up from earlier years – women made 90% less in prize money in 1964- there is no excuse or reason for a gap this large to persist today.

In addition to making (on average) 15 times less than their male counterparts (Gerencer, MoneyNation), the men receive a disproportionate amount of media attention and sponsorships. Even within our own community, the disparity exists.

“The boys’ team does have an advantage…they get more attention than the girls’ team,” player for the Cherokee Trail girls’ golf team Mia Ballard (11) said. “This is an issue on the national level as well as at our school it discourages women from wanting to go professional and doesn’t allow them to be as successful as they deserve to be.”

While men not only make more, women are also less likely to get sponsored by big-name brands than the men. A similar issues exists at CT.

“The boys’ team gets a lot better quality things…the girls’ team just gets their hand-me downs,” Jordan Rockwood (11) said, also a player on the CT team. Just like in the professional world, our own girls’ golf team seems second to the boys.

These are issues that are sticking around for no reason. It truly would not be that difficult to at least begin work on fixing these gaps. Ed Cohen of Bleacher Report wrote an article titled “Why Not Gender-Blind Golf Tournaments?” in which he said “if you watch elite women golfers you’ll notice that they are…as skilled as PGA pros at approach shots, chips, and putts.” To Cohen’s point, the only true difference between the men and women is driving distance – and why does that one deviation alienate a whole group? “Why not seek a fair middle ground?” Cohen asked in his article, “surely there is room for a…gender-blind Anybody’s Golf Tournament.” He raised fair questions that we shouldn’t need to be asking today. Women have been breaking through gender barriers in enormous ways recently, and it’s time that golf joined the party.  

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