It has been rumored for many years that Golf stands for “Gentlemen-Only- Ladies-Forbidden” – a perception that is drastically being challenged by UniMedia-Pro through ensuring that the only factor limiting South African female golfers is the extent of their talent. The annual 2016 Ryder Cup, hosted on the sun bathed courses of Sun City, proved the perfect platform to put the selected female pro golfers to the test.
The Gary Player Golf Course, recently named South Africa’s Best Golf Course in the 2015 World Golf Awards, proved a suitable challenge on day one of the tournament. The course, an 18-hole par-72, walking course, meant the survival of the fittest (literally) where the stamina of players were put to the test. On the second day of the tournament the golfers tackled the Lost City Golf Course where the style of play were in sharp contrast to the lengthy fairways during the first day. Indeed many struggled, while still admiring the tranquility of the various water features unique to the African bush of this desert-style course. Evidently, it was not just the 38 live Nile crocodiles on the 13th hole that did some chomping work as women Pro Golfers Monique Smit and Michelle Leigh snapped up top positions.
Smit has been a dominant force in local golf for a number of years and has conquered South Africa’s most challenging courses with two Sunshine Ladies Tour titles as well as top five finishes in numerous national tournaments including the Investec Cup and SuperSport Ladies Challenge. She has also consistently performed successfully on the international stage, being placed in the top 10 of the Ladies Asian Golf Tour among others.“It is at these tournaments where one truly stretches one’s ability”, says Michelle. “Female golf players need more support to grant us access to these tournaments.
Often it isn’t performance, but payment that restricts golfers from reaching their full potential.” Leigh, a consistent top 20 national achiever agrees and admits that, before stepping up to the starting tee, most female golfers already are contemplating how they are going to recover the couple of thousand Rand they have spent to participate. “We cannot have this situation where players are already preoccupied before the start of the game. Ladies are limited before even lifting a golf club”.
Many argue that this predicament is true for all South African golfers. The reality however is that since the 1940’s South African men golfers have won more golf majors than any other nation apart from the United States. This has raised the level of awareness and has resulted in a growth of the number of elite sponsorships being made available specifically on the men’s tour. Woman golfers, in contrast, are on average being sponsored with a mere R100 000 for every R1 million in sponsorship that goes to men.
Fortunately, there is hope!Initiatives such as that of UniMedia-Pro are becoming the flag at the 18th hole for many women golfers and aims to elevate South African women golfers to the level comparable to men and deserving of the level of commitment, dedication and entertainment generated.