By Robert Bicknell

March 2007

Women golfers make a big difference...

Some clubs refuse to even admit that women play golf, much less play it well. Some blatantly discriminate about women being members and even go so far as to restrict tee times. Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters tournament was the scene of protests a few years back by Martha Burke, but despite her antics, Augusta National still remains as a "men's only" club.

My personal viewpoint is that private clubs should be allowed to decide who they want as members and to set which criteria to judge potential members by because the very definition of a "club" is an organisation of "like-minded individuals".

But I do have a few caveats to toss in as well.

The right to decide who is a member and who isnít should not be allowed at clubs which use public land, get tax relief or special conditions from the local, state or federal government. Clubs like that should not be allowed to discriminate based on gender, race or religion.

Yes, even religion plays a role in clubs in the US.

Yet, having said that, I also believe that clubs without women are poorer for the experience. Lets face it, women make the clubs more fun and wives beating the hell out of their husbands makes for some great bar chat after the round.

I was fortunate to grow-up in the private golf club scene as both my parents and my uncles were founding members of a few clubs, so I always had a choice of where to play.

Some of my favourite memories involve my aunt blasting my uncle in the bar after a husband wife event with comments like "I told you to hit the 7-iron, but NOOOO, you had to be the big man, ĎI can make it with an 8-ironí. Idiot!"

Another aunt, who I swear never wore a dress in her entire life, gave me my first bunker lesson as a kid. Paul Azinger, who is one of the best bunker players on the PGA Tour, couldíve learned a few tricks from her. She was never more than three feet from the pin coming out of the sand. Fried eggs, plugged lies so deep you needed an excavator to just find the ball, under the lip, no matter. Wham! Next to the pin.

Funny enough, she also used to smoke cigars from time to time and I heard that she punched out a parking valet for scratching her car once, but I couldnít verify it.

She also used to baby sit for me while my mother played tennis or went to the pool. Seven years old and Aunt Niecy was teaching me how to hit knock-down shots at the driving range. Different strokes for different folks.

As a professional and club manager here in Vietnam, I have the ability to ensure that women receive the same benefits and privileges as the male members. In fact, at Kings Island Golf, I even arranged a free daily shuttle bus just to make it easier for them to play more and we didnít set any rules regarding who can tee off when based on gender.

And when it comes to playing fair, women submit every scorecard for handicap. They take it just as seriously, if not more, than the men do...and they are just as competitive, just ask my wife. I washed a lot of dishes after losing 9-hole matches to her after work when I was with Vietnam Golf (Thu Duc).

I still havenít witnessed a woman throwing a club yet, but Iím sure that it will happen someday.

A lot of people donít like to watch the LPGA, but they are missing out on a lot of excellent golf. These ladies can play some excellent golf and you can learn a lot by watching how they handle different situations.

During the Tiger Skins in Singapore a few years back, Annika Sorenstam was on hand and I got to chat with her during a rain delay before we teed off. Thereís a reason she is as good as she is, its called focus and its not solely a male attribute. Despite also having Retief Goosen and Jesper Parnevik on hand, Annika was the star of the show, especially at the free clinic.

Asian females are making huge inroads on the LPGA and they are doing what their male counterparts cannot. They win and win often. Ever year there are at least two new Korean and Japanese names on the rosters, which says a lot about womenís golf in Asia, but I would like to see a Vietnamese name on the leader board someday.

It can happen, but the clubs here in Vietnam need to play an active role in promoting junior golf which includes girls as well as boys.

So, my advice to the clubs in Vietnam is simple Ė donít sell the ladies short. We donít always have to follow the examples set by the US or Europe. This is Asia and we can do it our way.

And thatís another thing, husbands with non-golfing wives are missing out on a great thing. Listen, there is nothing better than having a wife who plays golf because youíll always have a partner, but donít EVER try to teach you wife how to play golf. Hire a professional do it.

Trust me on this.

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