The R&A played host to an “energising and inspiring” Women In Sport Summit during the week of the AIG Women’s Open at Walton Heath.
Leading figures in sport, business and entertainment came together at the venue south of London to share their expertise and experiences. They included 10-time major winner Annika Sörenstam; the head of women’s sport at Sky Sports, Jo Osborne; and the FA’s director of the women’s professional game, Kelly Simmons.
The summit centred around raising the visibility and increasing the impact of women’s sport, a theme discussed at length by a talented panel of speakers including: England Rugby World Cup winner Maggie Alphonsi; Tammy Parlour, the CEO and co-founder of the Women’s Sport Trust; and Hollywood star – and R&A ambassador – Kathryn Newton.
Sörenstam, who won the 2003 edition of the Women’s Open, can see the positive changes being made in women’s golf and believes the game has never been in a better place.
“It was very energising and inspiring,” she said of the summit. “It was great to see people from so many different companies from across the world come together and talk about what’s important and how we can keep elevating women’s sport.
“There’s still some work to be done, but it’s definitely going in the right direction. The first time I played , we didn’t have everything that we see at Walton Heath this week. There weren’t any ropes or hospitality tents or anything like that. It’s great to see how far things have come.”
“It’s a golden time for women’s sport. ... Women’s sport is at the front of everyone’s minds, and we just need to keep that momentum going.”
The Women In Sport Summit also was an opportunity for attendees to make connections, share ideas and simply brainstorm ways in which they can help drive women’s sport further forward.
Sky Sports Golf presenter Sarah Stirk compèred the event and was equally inspired by the afternoon, suggesting that women’s sport is thriving like never before.
“We’ve all seen a massive rise in participation in women’s golf, but also the proliferation of women’s sport,” Stirk said. “More people are into women’s sport than ever before. Participation is up, we’re seeing media exposure … we’re in a really good place.
“It’s a golden time for women’s sport. We’ve got the best golfers in the world here at Walton Heath, the Women’s Football World Cup is going on and we’ve just had the Netball World Cup as well. Women’s sport is at the front of everyone’s minds, and we just need to keep that momentum going.”
Alphonsi and her Red Roses teammates reached the pinnacle of their sport when they defeated Canada in the Rugby World Cup final in 2014.
“Events like this are incredibly important as it gives us the opportunity to shine a light on women’s sport, and to talk about some real integral elements such as getting more fans in,” Alphonsi said. “I love being here – I was here last year as well – and every time I’m in this environment I get really excited.”
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