The First Scot in a Decade

Kaitlin Dryburgh– 17th November 2022

Some big news from over in Japan, Sunday 6th November Gemma Dryburgh (my cousin) made history by being the first Scot in over a decade to win an LPGA tournament. She’s had a few knock backs in recent years but has had an absolutely stormer of a year so far and has now made it into the top 100 players. To win a tournament is a huge success and I know the hard work Gemma puts in, and although she travels the world working in some of the most stunning settings I also know that she might have to stay with a host family to save money and spend an evening in a laundrette in Florida for example, no hotel dry cleaning for her. She’s a humble, determined and down to earth sportsperson who is a great face for Scottish sport, although I am 100% biased I know this is her reputation around the circuit.

So when she won on Sunday and she was doing several interviews here in Scotland, the UK and internationally, coming from a proud family it was great to hear of all the exposure and recognition that was coming her way, and rightly so. Yet when I took a step back it wasn’t hard to see how the coverage would be different if 1. Gemma was a man, 2. Gemma was playing Football (for example). The sad thing was that it was Scotland I was most disappointed in, considering we are the home of golf why are we not celebrating this win more. A small clip on the 6 o’clock local news in comparison with the deluge of Football news is disappointing, not to mention the tv coverage she was receiving over in USA was much more in comparison. Come on Scotland we can do better than this! The sport section should not consist of Football with a sprinkling of rugby and the very scare mention of any other sport, especially when it comes to women’s sport. This is nothing against Football but we have some amazing sports people from all different disciplines, why are we so reluctant to hear about it and show it.

Certain newspapers have been brilliant at reporting on Gemma, golf in general and other sports, yet I know that many of them have dedicated golf reporters and with the squeeze on journalism in recent years I know for many newspapers this isn’t financially feasible. However, I’m not accepting this as a fully blown excuse and if they want to have a sport section that only includes football then rename it.  

However, back to my first point “if Gemma were a man”. Just like in many sports the glaring disparities between the male and female branches of a sport are hard to ignore, the LPGA has been running for 50 years and is so slow to achieve equality it’s almost painful to watch from the outside. The prize for first place when Gemma won was $300,000, of course still a hell of a lot of money. However, when Rory McIlroy won his first PGA in 2010 he won $1.7 million, and that was over a decade ago. So although we are supposed to be encouraged by the small progress coming our way, it’s not happening fast enough. Golf is one of the worst culprits as there are other sports that present a much more equal playing field, such as Tennis which has come on leap and bounds in recent years.

Golf can be a different animal at times and as someone who isn’t fully immersed in that world often has me scratching me head. The one thing I will never get over is the exclusion of women from clubhouses and the classism that surrounds it. The British Open was held at Muirfield this year (just outside of Edinburgh) they only allowed Women members in 2019, and it took a previous First Minister and Prime Minister to make statements of disagreement and their exclusion from the Open rota to force their hand. I find this absolutely baffling, and they’re not alone St Andrews made the bold step in 2014 (however didn’t install changing facilities until years later) and Troon in 2016. I once again am disappointed in Scotland the home of golf.

That’s also not to mention the lack of diversity you see at golf clubs and tournaments, many black golfers have stated there has been change but it’s slow and there are still racist incidents happening in plain sight.

Gender is one thing but is it accessible if you can’t afford the hefty price tag to join a club, well probably not. Golf is one of the most expensive pastimes out there and that most definitely includes Scotland, which was voted the best golf destination this week. To gain a membership in some of the courses I previously mentioned that’s going to set you back thousands and thousands of pounds, that is if you’re not rejected first. Yet even to play at your local club can cost several hundred of pounds a year and that even includes council run courses. This in no way creates an environment where everyone feels like this sport is accessible to them, like they can pick up a second-hand club and easily join their local club. That no matter their background or where they’re from, they’ll be welcomed.

For a professional trying to make it in a sport that can be astronomically expensive sponsorships can be a make or break in this world, and the sponsorship open to women as you could imagine is significantly lower than what is on offer to their male counterparts. This isn’t isolated just to golf it’s all across the board, women’s sport sponsorship and marketing accounts for less than 1% of all sports marketing, pathetic. That’s the unfortunate thing, prize money and general pay is one element which could make sports more equal but sponsorship, media coverage and general attitudes need to be considered as well. They’re stuck in a cycle with one spurring on the other and unless we can tackle all of them at the same time the progress will be slow. Media coverage of women’s sport is lacking and some journalists who are sport’s fans need to have a long hard think about what that actually means. We are starting to see more and more coverage of women’s sport, for example women’s rugby which has enjoyed much more tv coverage, and just like other sports before it broadcasters have found it be popular. Quite often if broadcasters show it people will watch it, especially if they are true sports fans.

The Lionesses this year did bring the spotlight to women’s sport and as such during the controversial world cup this year there will be two sessions planned by the Women and Equalities Committee to discuss sexism and inequality in women’s football. This is great to hear if something productive follows it (the cynic in me thinks we shouldn’t hold our breathe), yet it shouldn’t take a great success at winning the Euros for this to happen.

Sport can be a great equalizer, it can teach people so much, it should be more of an integral part of Scotland’s culture. Everyone in Scotland should have the opportunity to play whatever sport they wish to do and to whatever level, and if that happens to be at a professional level we should give everyone an equal chance of making it a success. The grassroots of all sports need to portray an equal landscape that is financially viable for everyone, in some sports like golf there is some work to be done, but only if they want it or are subsequently forced to. So as the home of golf (a very privileged position to be in) lets safeguard that and ensure that anyone who wants to can be apart of that. Golf is one of our many great exports but what we don’t want is a situation where only the rich are involved or tourists. So let’s say goodbye to those ridiculous rules in clubhouses, allow women to ACTUALLY join clubs freely, ensure that the voices similar to those who tried to stop women joining Muirfield golf club up until 2019 don’t have a hand in steering Scottish golf and let’s get everyone involved not just people from certain geographical areas.

I know that Gemma wants to help change the tide on women’s golf and I’m sure she’ll have every success but we all need to play our part.

3 thoughts on “The First Scot in a Decade”

  1. Fiona McOwan

    What a great article Kaitlin and huge congratulations to Gemma. But you’re right, I didn’t spot it on BBC Scotland Sports News at any point before, during or after the event. A lot needs changed to give women’s sport parity with men’s and in tennis it has taken high profile players from Billie Jean King to the Williams sisters to challenge the patriarchy in the game.

  2. Joy MacNaughton

    Well done to Gemma.
    One of many top ranked athletes in Scotland. If more coverage was given to other sports folk would have more confidence to participate in other areas. We excel way above our size but you wouldn’t realise that because of poor coverage.
    The pandemic was great for the lack of coverage of football. The only sport that really gets coverage.
    Our swimmers and athletics stars make up a high percentage of team GB but needs to be promoted as over 8% of the team for the reader to understand the achiement.

  3. Ian Davidson

    I was a golf orphan (60s/70s) my late mother a golf widow. My dad’s club was typical of the era: white presbyterian free masonry, the place to strike business deals and speak to off duty cops about your speeding ticket. Women were allowed to play a few hours per week, not allowed in the bar. Dress codes for men: no shorts or t shirts. It has moved on, but slowly! In spite of my dad’s efforts, I never got beyond the hooking and slicing stage! Congrats! Fore!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top