The R&A’s sustained commitment to women’s and girls’ golf was in further evidence at last week’s staging of the AIG Women’s Open, the first female major of the year.
The challenge of hosting the event safely behind closed doors during the COVID-19 global pandemic earned generous praise, with 144 players representing 32 countries travelling to Royal Troon.
Further evidence of The R&A’s commitment to women’s golf came on the eve of the tournament itself, with the news that five world-class venues will host the AIG Women’s Open going forward – Carnoustie in 2021, Muirfield in 2022, Walton Heath in 2023, St Andrews in 2024 and Royal Porthcawl in 2025.
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “With our partners at AIG, we have a real ambition to grow and elevate the AIG Women's Open for the benefit of the world's leading golfers and so we are excited to confirm our intention to play the next five championships at these renowned courses.”
Peter Zaffino, President and Global Chief Operating Officer, AIG, added, “AIG is pleased to partner with The R&A to increase visibility and engagement in women’s professional golf by enhancing the global stature of the AIG Women’s Open.”
Providing further feel-good factor before Dame Laura Davies struck the opening tee shot, the announcement highlighted two key benefits – one for the players themselves and the other to help the growth of female golf overall, particularly in the UK.
Scotland’s leading player, Gemma Dryburgh, said, “I saw Muirfield on there and I was like, ‘Wow,’ that's a step forward.’ So, it will be amazing to play there, and Carnoustie next year as well. I’m looking forward to all the venues.”
The excitement is obvious – and it is hoped that excitement will filter down to club level. The R&A launched the Women in Golf Charter in 2018 to increase the number of women and girls playing, working and volunteering in golf, and it continues to make strides.
“I think I have been committed about women’s and girls’ golf since I arrived in St Andrews,” said Slumbers, who started his role in 2015. “You have heard me talk about people will join golf clubs when golf clubs are selling the product that people want to buy, and we've still got to do that, and we've still got to keep changing and we've still got to keep being modern and relevant.
“You know, I look at the UK, and I look at club golf, and it's about 15 percent of club members who are female. In countries where the game is really growing, that number is in the 20s and 30s, and the high 30s in some cases. So, the opportunity to grow the audience is dramatic.”
Taking the AIG Women’s Open to Surrey venue Walton Heath in 2023, a signatory of the Charter in 2019, could help harness the potential for the sport in the south.
Slumbers continued, “You know, we need to find a combination of venues that not only show they have the right platform, but where we could attract interest in the women and girls’ game.
“To do that, we felt it was very important to have one of our biggest inland courses in London where there is growing women’s and girls’ golf and use the capital of the country to really galvanise that and be close to it. I think it complements those real top-quality championship links courses.”
For more championship information, please visit www.aigwomensopen.com.
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