There was history made over the previous weekend, at the Tylösand Golf Club on the west coast of Sweden. Linn Grant became the first woman to win on the men’s European Tour. Alright, it is the DP World Tour but for an old dog like me this tour is still what originated from a group of British players, lead by the legendary John Jacobs, formed in the 1970:s. Not only has it since changed its name. It has also welcomed women to compete!
This year was the second time the tournament was played in this format. 78 men and 78 women formed the traditional 156 player field, competing over four days. The tees for the men were different to the tees for the women, with the idea that men and women were going to be able to compete at a level playing field. As always, the debate that followed was a lot about whether this was fair or not. As Grant won the tournament by 9 shots, and the back end of the leader board had mostly women on it, I think most agreed that Linn simply won because she played the best golf that week. Not because the women were generally in favour.
One of the interesting things about the discussion of the equality between the sexes is that it usually stops with that. Where there is a difference between men and women. Which clearly there is. That is not to say that the differences between individuals of the same sex can be big as well. Perhaps the most known example of this is Caster Semenya. And in Sports where the physical abilities play a role, that is normally the difference that is easier to spot. More so than a potential difference in psychological ability.
So, what has this all got to do with Linn Grant? When she left Tylösand with the biggest check, she took home a substantial prize in women’s golf. In 2003, when Annika Sorenstam played against the men at Colonial, philosopher Claudio Tamburrini argued that separating women from the bigger purses that often exist in men’s events is nothing but the kind of discrimination that will hinder equality in sports. What if the only reason to why we use sex to separate is that it is easy? And what if there are ways to do away with the differences that genetics can be accounted for? Should sport then embrace this opportunity? Or would that be too much of a compromise to the idea of sport?
Linn Grant paved the way for competitive golf played in a different way. It now remains to be seen what sports choose to follow. If any…