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News flash: Male and female golfers are different

Women can compete with men, reader contends, and playing from forward tees would help ensure the ‘competitive equilibrium’

I want to applaud John Hawkins for his latest article (“A missing piece to the golf puzzle,” Dec. 3).

Hawkins clearly outlines many of the issues involved in mixed-gender competition. His discussion of the factor of distance is particularly revealing. After giving the driving-distance stats, he writes regarding the LPGA, "No tour-wide average for driving distance is provided, leading one to believe the organization doesn’t want anyone to know that the gap between male and female tour pros has become wider than ever." He is correct, and therein is a clue to the primary thinking problem involved in this issue. It is that men and women are different, and pretending that they aren't causes all kinds of problems.  

I have a close male friend with whom I play golf frequently. He has stated on numerous occasions, especially when I win a match, that it's not fair that I get to hit from the forward tees, when I am a “long hitter.” When I point out that his drive is still 40 yards farther than mine, and his 3-wood is also 30 yards longer, even though we are both lifelong athletes, he gets a slight frown, looks away, and mumbles, “It's still not fair.”

He is unable to do two things (and I love him anyway). First, is that it is fair, and understanding why it is fair is key to understanding why one wishes to look at this issue not only from the male perspective, but also from the female perspective. The second is the most basic and is unconscious, and it is that he believes that no matter what, in an athletic competition, that the male should prevail.

This issue is behind Hawkins' statement, “When former PGA of America president Suzy Whaley won the 2002 Connecticut PGA Section title from tees 700 yards shorter than where all male contestants played, every New England club pro with whiskers flipped out. So did the nationwide operation that Whaley recently oversaw.” In the previous paragraph, he wrote, “Unless you move the women up a couple of boxes, you really don’t have much of a tournament. Allow them to play from their comfort zone, however, and you disturb the competitive equilibrium of the event.”

The error of that statement about disturbing the “competitive equilibrium” is the crux of this problem. It does not disturb the competitive equilibrium; it ensures it. What it disturbs is the unconscious, erroneous belief that a female can't beat a male in a fair competition, given the innate natural differences in their biology. This is why we have different tee boxes. 

Robin Dea
Vancouver, Wash.

There’s only 1 way to make it work
In 2003, Annika Sorenstam clearly was the No. 1 women’s player and an all-time great. She played the PGA Tour event at Colonial Country Club, a course that emphasizes strategy over power, and she failed to make the cut.

The only way to make this work would be to have a mixed-team event (“A missing piece to the golf puzzle,” Dec. 3). As individuals, the women would have very little chance.

George Delaney
Olympia, Wash.

It’s worth a shot
I’m all for John Hawkins’ proposal (“A missing piece to the golf puzzle,” Dec. 3), and if it’s only one event per calendar year, then make the money the same, regardless of which tees the women play.

Consider that on a 400-yard par 4, the average PGA Tour player’s drive leaves him 104 yards from the green (according to Hawkins), probably a sand wedge. If she played from the same tee, the average LPGA player’s drive would be 154 yards from that same green. That’s probably a 6- or 7-iron for her. To make it fair, she should have a sand wedge for her approach shot, too. That would mean teeing it up from about 335 yards. Why not?

If the PGA Tour player can reach a par 5 with a 5-wood, the LPGA player should have that same chance. Then it’s going to come down to short game and putting, which it does every week.

I say give them a chance and give it a go. I know I’d watch. 

John Gaughan
Fairfield, Ohio

Need more tips for faster pace of play? Here you go
Reader George Fletcher has had the benefit of playing for the past four weeks in Scotland while the days grew shorter (“From the Morning Read inbox,” Dec. 3).

As Fletcher noted, in England, lockdown kept us off the course despite a quarter million and more supporting a petition to Parliament pointing out the health benefits of socially-distant golf during the pandemic. Wednesday, the first day back, was a keyboard battle for a start time. My four-ball teed off at 1:02 p.m., and about 180 players got a game in reasonable conditions.

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With sunset due at 3:54 p.m., we expected to play 12 holes. We came off after No. 16 at 4:25, which would make it well within four hours for a full round, despite the course being full ahead, with 8-minute intervals. Golf is a walking game, and you walk about five miles. How can that take five hours?

Here's my plan for speeding up play in the U.S. (and a few places in the U.K., too). Buggies allowed only for players with a medical/physical need, and one player per buggy. Use a local rule for dropping out when a quick search fails to find a ball. Play a format that doesn't require every player to hole out or mark his or her card. Pick up when you can't help your partner or the team, and when you are given a putt. When you do have to wait, look around and say, like my partner Dave, "Where in the world …?"

Today is a different story: pouring rain, and almost every tee time is suddenly free. Roll on, Saturday.

Terry Wall
Winchester, England

It’s a deadline-driven game
John Hawkins is right and wrong about slow play (“Why the rush? It’s golf, so slow down and enjoy it,” Nov. 30).

He is right that golf is a great way to be outside, enjoying the course and the game. No need to hurry an enjoyable round. He is wrong in questioning his editor's 2½-hour rounds. Steve Harmon might want to point out that reviewing and editing the articles and podcasts that Hawk submits, and all the letters to the editor received, requires a serious amount of time and effort. 

A 2½-hour round probably is necessary for Harmon to have time to coordinate Hawkins' prodigious musings and the opinion letters of Morning Read’s readers.

Anyway, great work by both of you.

Dave Richner
St. Johns, Fla.

Hey, at least he’s good at something
In reading Tom Weiskopf’s comments about Rory McIlroy, it brought to mind another similar golfer: Tom Weiskopf (“Rory McIlroy fires back at Tom Weiskopf,” Dec. 2).

Weiskopf just might be reflecting on his own failure as a can't-miss phenom who happened to fail miserably.

Well, at least you build great golf courses, Tom. 

Robert Fish
Sun Lakes, Ariz.

Post-election humor
Regarding Annika Sorenstam’s election as president of the International Golf Federation: Voting by the 11-member IGF board using Dominion election machines had to be redone when the results returned showed Alex Miceli 24, Sorenstam 3, with 82 percent of returns collected.

Martin Donnelly
Elmhurst, Ill.

Morning Read invites reader comment. Write to editor Steve Harmon at steve@morningread.com. Please provide your name and city of residence. If your comment is selected for publication, Morning Read will contact you to verify the authenticity of the email and confirm your identity. We will not publish your email address. We reserve the right to edit for clarity and brevity.

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