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Sorenstam's game is no feminist fight - that happens off the playing surface

By Pat O'Shane - posted Monday, 26 May 2003

As a committed feminist I am always pleased to read other feminists prosecuting the cause, but I am mightily irritated when Jacquelin Magnay writes such rubbish as she does regarding Annika Sorenstam going head to head with the men in the USA Colonial tournament in Fort Worth, Texas.

I try to play golf, as I've tried to play many sports over my lifetime. I have in various phases been a sports coach, trainer, and accredited umpire in a variety of sporting activities. In the good old days, we gained our training and accreditation through the National Fitness Leaders' programs, as well as through the individual sporting associations.

With that background, I believe that golf is pretty much the ideal sport: it has something for everyone, male and female, young and old. It is a sport involving power and finesse, and it is the former of these two aspects that must be at the centre of considerations about female participation in male competitions.


Whatever some of my (ignorant) feminist friends might want the world to look like, the fact of life is that men are naturally more powerful than women are. This is not a social construct! This is how Nature made us - and for all the gee-whiz, you-beaut science around, it will remain so. That is not to say that some individual women may not be more powerful than some individual men but the exception proves the point here. More to the point, though, is that the top male sportsman in any power event will always beat the top female. She may or may not do better in the finesse aspects of the game.

For this reason, while Sorenstam is good, she could never be as good as Tiger Woods, however we construct society! And why she - or any other female - would want to compete in a male event in any power sport is beyond my understanding.

For her own sake (and that of other women), Magnay needs to be clear - or at least take the time to develop the knowledge and understanding - that the issue has nothing to do with women's place in society, or in the home. Talk about reductio ad absurdum!

Magnay's reference to golf being a segregated game is a non sequitur but, since she raises the issue, it bears some clearer examination.

Very substantial changes in attitudes and practices are yet needed in golf clubs and associations, not least in Women's Golf Australia, and its sister associations throughout the country.

I agree women should be full members, along with men, and thus have a greater voice in the governance and administration of the club, and the association. But in respect of this issue, the world for many male golfers HAS changed, and is continuing to change.


Unfortunately this issue is often reduced to an argument over fees, which is a tenuous connection at best.

Of course, fees are problematic; many women do not want to pay the same fees as men do. In fact, however, the question raises the entire issue of fees structures for all members. Some women can afford to pay the full fees for membership and would have the opportunity to play as often as they could. Some men cannot afford to pay the full fees, and would not have the opportunity to play more than once or twice a week. It is an issue confronting all clubs, as they struggle to limit memberships (golf has the fastest-growing participation rate of any sport in contemporary Australia), and accommodate all players.

If the concern, as it has been obliquely raised, is access to sponsorship dollars - or, to put it another way, wealth redistribution - then women's participation in men's competitions in power events is a very crude way to deal with the issue. In any event, there is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of the world's women would welcome any efforts on the part of exceedingly wealthy sportswomen (not to mention men!) to ensure that women in fact share in that wealth. But that, of course, is an entirely different story.

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Article edited by Merrindahl Andrew.
If you'd like to be a volunteer editor too, click here.

An edited version of this article was first published in The Sydney Morning Herald on 21 May 2003.

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About the Author

Pat O'Shane is a NSW magistrate and an activist for the rights of women and Aboriginal people.

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