The tragic news on Monday of the brutal murder on a golf course of European Ladies Amateur Champion Celia Barquin has caused angry shockwaves, not least in her native Spain.
Tommy Fleetwood tweeted this: “I’ve always grown up thinking that a golf course is the safest place in the world to be”.
Yes. But he is a man.
It is a sad reflection of how little society has progressed that even today that many women cannot feel free to do what they want, go where they want because they always live with the threat of male violence wherever they go. Whether this threat is real or imagined it holds women back. As far as women playing golf is concerned, can they do what men do, choose to play in solitude? – “alone with the skylarks”as a contented male member of Royal West Norfolk once described it.
When I was younger I used to go out and practice on a course which had a public right of way through it and I remember one day being startled by three different men interrupting my participation in the sport by mindless – and really annoying questions – “you enjoying your golf then?” “Yes, now do you mind?” another came onto the green picked up my golf ball “you’re playing with Titelist balata, they’re really expensive, how can you afford them?” and then another watching a drive “I’m surprised you can hit it that far, you’re very slightly built”. I was then told by the assistant professional that they had had the police in earlier that week because of rough sleepers camping out.
Women do not need this. It is not only rude and patronising it is threatening when men creep up out of nowhere. But it also smacks of something which needs to be addressed, and that is that men like these resent women being on their territory and want to disarm them so they give up and go away, they basically want golf to be what many of the public perceive it to be, a single sex sport. But when it comes to a distinguished amateur golfer being murdered on a golf course by a homeless man who was found living there who just wanted to kill, then people must sit up and take notice.
Because it is this, I think, more than anything else that is deterring women participating in golf. The Royal and Ancient realise that the lack of women playing the sport is a big issue not least because of the loss of potential revenue to the industry. They estimate that there are 36.9 million latent female golfers in the world (how this is measured is bewildering).This represents a potential $35 billion to golf. And yet they focus on family participation… England Golf focus on the upbeat. They use words like fun, welcome, support, building confidence, having a laugh and my favourite twee “socialising over a glass of fizz”.
They are getting it wrong.
In order for more women to come and play they need to feel completely safe, secure places across the board in every club. And it is about security. Only the wealthiest clubs can afford to employ buggy driving on course marshals. What is needed is properly supervised, constantly monitored CCTV cameras when women are playing. If this means keeping to a shorter 9 hole course then so be it. It is beholding on everyone to make sure that the golf course is a physically safe area. Spending money on this and telling women it is a safe place to be is what will appeal to women and reassure them much more than dishing out glasses of prosecco.
Rest In Peace Celia Barquin Arozamena.