By Robert Bicknell

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November 4, 2007

IGE Ladies Open a success.
Why are ladies always getting the shaft?

Well, Michelle Wie missed another tournament, mostly because she wasnít invited, but even if she was, Nguyen Thi Thu Giang wouldíve probably kicked her butt.

The first IGE Ladies Open event kicked off at Vietnam Golf & Country Clubís West Course last week and Giang took Best Gross with 78, a score that Wie would find hard to beat lately, especially as the West Course has enough trees to qualify as a national forest.

The tournament was Stableford format, maximum scores of 40 pts with lowest handicap winning all ties. Ms Thanh Cawthorne, took Best Net with 40 points and a handicap of 19.

Personally, I am thrilled that IGE took the time and effort to create a special event for the ladies, if for no other reason, because they deserve it.

Think about it for a minute...

Most clubs gear all their advertising towards the men, simply due to the fact that they are the biggest market, but ití the ladies who play during the weekday mornings while the kids are in school, not the men. On the weekends, its mostly men because the women usually stay home to watch the children, so they miss the best tournaments.

Creating one just for them makes a hell of a lot of sense and you know they appreciate it.

At VGCC in the old days, I created a "Ladies League" and, to ensure that it remained an "all ladies affair", I put one of my female Golf Operations staff in charge of it and it was a great success.

At Kings Island, I arranged for a free bus to take the ladies from Hanoi to the club and back according to their requested schedule.

Clubs lose out by ignoring them.

Many people have commented over the years about the "maximum score, lowest handicap winning all ties" system, which we started at VGCC back in 1998 as an anti-sandbagging measure. Today, it is almost mandatory at most club tournaments simply because it works. Players who try to manipulate their handicaps to ensure they receive more strokes than they actually deserve get nailed first by the maximum score provision, then lose by having a higher handicap.

While the vast majority of players approve of the system, there are always a few who refuse to participate because of it for reasons of their own.

Actually, itís sad that such systems have to be employed in the first place, but while golf is a game that is rooted in honesty and respect for the rules, human nature is such that some people want to win at any cost...even if it means cheating.

During the last 10 years, the vast majority of players in Vietnam have come to appreciate the rules and respect the handicap systems of the various clubs, but again, there are always a few who continue to try to outsmart the tournament officials.

One important thing that some of the less scrupulous players tend to over-look is the caddie. At VGCC, the caddies almost always reported it when a player took what they thought was an illegal drop, employed a foot wedge or grounded their club in a hazard.

When one member shot a record round, the caddie was worried that the player would not submit the card for handicap purposes, knowing the playerís handicap would drop like a stone, so they came to me to report it.

What the player didnít know was that the caddie kept a duplicate card...just in case.

The score got entered and I bought the playerís group a round of drinks and they never tried to put one over on me again.

For the handicap system to work correctly, everyone has to be involved and that includes players, caddies, marshals, starters and fellow competitors. There cannot be any shenanigans whatsoever and the system must be completely transparent.

This is where "peer-review" comes into play.

All handicaps are posted on the boards inside the clubhouse so anyone can check up on another player. In addition, players can usually check their entire scoring histories at the clubís internet site.

Players who become known as "sandbaggers" get frozen out from all the good tournaments and, eventually, nobody wants to play with them. So the best advice is to play by the rules...

Itís better for everyone.

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