The IX: Golf Thursday with Carly Grenfell, October 1, 2020
Golf in Saudi Arabia —Perspectives on Saudi Arabia events— Must-click links in women's golf
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Golf in Saudi Arabia
Earlier this week, the Ladies European Tour (LET) announced two events in Saudi Arabia that will take place this November. These will be the first female professional golf events in the country. According to Will Gray at Golf Channel, here’s how the pair of tournaments will shake out.
The Aramco Saudi Ladies’ International will feature a field of 108 LET golfers competing for a $1 million purse. While the tournament was postponed from its original March date because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s now back on the books for Nov. 12-15 at Royal Greens Golf Club, which has also hosted the European Tour’s Saudi International each of the last two years.
The LET will return to action on the same course days later for the Saudi Ladies’ Team International, slated for Nov. 17-19. This event will feature 36 teams of four players competing for both individual and team prizes totaling $500,000, with teams “selected via a draft-style process, taking place the week before the tournament, giving team captains the power to build a team of their choice.”
This is good and bad. It’s good because it’s an opportunity for LET players who don’t have a ton of opportunities, especially in this pandemic-reduced schedule. It’s also good because it’s a significant purse; a life-changing purse, even.
It’s bad because Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive countries in the world when it comes to women’s rights. Even PGA Tour players have been criticized for playing in Saudi Arabia events for this reason. Here was Phil Mickelson’s explanation.
LET player Meg MacLaren is one who chose last January not to play in any Saudi Arabia events. After some personal research, she decided it’s not something she would feel comfortable participating in. She specifically brought up Amnesty International and the research they have done on humans rights issues in the country. I looked into the organization myself. And let me tell you—it’s eye-opening, and extremely sad. Here’s a snapshot of the issues women face in Saudi Arabia.
The authorities implemented major reforms to the repressive male guardianship system, including allowing women to obtain passports, travel without the permission of a male guardian and become heads of households; however, women continued to face systematic discrimination in law and practice in other areas and remained inadequately protected against sexual and other violence. The authorities granted hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals the right to work and access to education and health care, but arrested and deported hundreds of thousands of irregular migrant workers, who were exposed to labour abuses and exploitation by employers and torture when in state custody. (via amnesty.org)
The bad outweighs the good here. No amount of money can right the many wrongs. I’d be curious to know what sorts of things Saudi Arabia is doing to repair their reputation. Is this one of them? Hosting women’s sporting events? It is going to take a whole lot more than that. The overall sentiment from fans is a lot of frustration and confusion about how this is good for the game. I’m with them.
Hopefully in the near future, women’s golf gets to a place where it doesn’t have to chase dollar signs. When it gets to a place where it’s easier to turn down events with significant purses, I would consider that a positive sign. I cannot speak to the experience itself—perhaps it’s a positive one in that controlled setting. But I would argue the bigger picture is more important here. If the LPGA and LET want to inspire the future of the game, all decisions should be made from that place. All decisions should align with equality and basic human rights.
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This Week in Women’s Golf
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LPGA and CME reaffirm final event in 2020. (via LPGA.com)
After this weekend, the final KPMG Women’s PGA Championship field will be set. (via USA Today)
It’s ShopRite LPGA Classic week in Atlantic City. Check out the leaderboard on day one. (via LPGA.com)
Check out Sierra Brooks’ new player diary on COVID-19, Chipotle and finding an edge. (via Golfweek)
Spotted on the LPGA: comfy jogger pants for fall ball. (via Golf.com)
LPGA chooses CSM to drive sponsorship sales. (via sportsbusiness.com)
National Hispanic Heritage Month feature of Maria Fassi. (via LPGA.com)
Mel Reid, one of golf’s great fighters, opens up about discovering her self-worth. (via USA Today)
Local teams play in virtual pro-am to raise money for LPGA. (via The Pilot)
The ShopRite LPGA classic looks a little different this year. (via Press of Atlantic City)
Meet Kim Williams, LPGA Player and Teaching Professional. (via Williamson Source)
Renee Powell named Captain of U.S. Junior Solheim Cup team. (via PGA.com)
Annie Park is excited for sweater weather in New Jersey. (via LPGA.com)
Christina Kim finding perspective amidst pandemic. (via Golfweek)
Golf Canada CEO happy with how golf has stepped up during the pandemic. (via Airdrie Today)
Check out this story on Sarah White’s leap from a mini-tour unknown to Symetra Tour winner. (via Golfweek)
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Saudi Arabia Perspectives
There are a lot of contrasting opinions and stances on golf events in Saudi Arabia, or golf initiatives backed by the country, that I wanted to present here. Some players are for it. Some players are against it. Some have spoken up, and some have quietly withdrawn or declined invites. Here are five important sentiments and perspectives around the issue as a whole.
I. LET CEO Alexandra Armas: I am incredibly excited by this announcement and it is an honor for the Tour to be part of history in bringing the first-ever professional women’s golf event to Saudi Arabia. Confirmation of adding Saudi Arabia to our schedule for 2020 is an exciting prospect for everyone at the Ladies European Tour and having seen the quality of the event staging for the Saudi International, I am sure this will be a fantastic experience for our players. (via LET.com)
II. Director of Amnesty International UK Kate Allen: With leading Saudi women’s rights activists currently languishing behind bars, there’s an unmistakable irony to the spectacle of Saudi Arabia throwing open its heavily-watered greens to the world’s leading women golfers like this. Under the Crown Prince, Saudi Arabia has embarked on a major sportswashing drive – attempting to use the glamour and prestige of big-money sporting events as a PR tool to distract from its abysmal human rights record. It’s clear the Saudi authorities would prefer that golf handicaps are discussed this week, not their whitewash over Khashoggi’s killing. Every golfer considering whether to compete in Saudi Arabia ought to take a proper look at the human rights situation in the country and be prepared to speak out. We’d urge any golfer who makes the trip to Saudi Arabia in November to use her profile to help highlight human rights issues in the country, not least with an expression of solidarity with jailed women’s human rights defenders like Loujain al-Hathloul or Nassima al-Sada. (via The Guardian)
III. LET Player Carly Booth: I’m looking forward to being part of history with the other ladies on the tour and of course to competing over the Royal Greens course. I have visited Saudi Arabia on a number of occasions and been lucky enough to spend some time teaching local women and girls how to play; they have been so enthusiastic and I am sure that seeing professional golfers compete in their country will inspire them to take up the game and strive for their dreams. (via LET.com)
IV. LET Player Meg MacLaren: I’ve decided not to play based on what I think sport is being used to do in Saudi Arabia. It’s far more complicated than any one individual, so it’s a personal decision and not something I would push onto anyone else. But based on the research of organizations like Amnesty International, I couldn’t be comfortable being part of that process. (via Golf Channel)
V. Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee: You’re talking about the most egregious acts against humanity. These people put homosexuals in bags and throw them off buildings for sport. They chop up journalists. So every morning you’d have to look in the mirror and go, ‘Do I really like where this money is coming from? Am I not somewhat complicit? Am I not being a ventriloquist? Am I not sort of being a part of the euphemizing of these atrocities?’ And you’ve got one guy to stand out and say these are the problems here. Yeah, there’s a lot of money, but there’s a lot of existential baggage that comes with that. (via Golfweek)