|Hannah Darling |
Photo courtesy of : Jamie Squire
The East of Scotland Open Championship is to become the first battle of the sexes in a leading Scottish amateur golf tournament after a decision to open up the 48th staging of the event at Lundin to women.
The tournament on 27-28 June will feature men and women playing for the same prize, won in the past by some famous names in Scottish golf, including George Macgregor, Sandy Stephen and Richie Ramsay.
The change, which has the support of the R&A and Scottish Golf, comes just over five years after Lundin, founded in 1868, became a mixed membership club.
“It is an exciting change,” said David Moir, a long-serving East of Scotland Open committee member and past president of the Scottish Golf Union. “We’ve actually been thinking about this for a while as we have club competitions among members that are mixed events, which is great.
“The organising committee remain very passionate about the East of Scotland Amateur Stroke Play Championship and we are delighted to be incorporating women into the event for the first time.
“The Women’s Amateur Championship is taking place at the same time but, with that down to the semi-final and final stage by the weekend, we are hoping to get some of the players coming over from Kilmarnock (Barassie).”
A maximum of 18 women will feature in a 72-strong field on the Fife coast this summer in a move that mirrors the Berkhamsted Trophy in England being opened up to women for the first time. In the professional game, a mixed event is being hosted by Henrik Stenson and Annika Sorenstam in June.
Ramsay, the winner in 2004, has welcomed the change, saying: “It is good that they are trying new ways to open up this event. Being proactive like this is essential for the future of many events. It’s a lovely course and the design lends itself to this format.”
Hannah Darling, the top Scot in the Women’s Amateur Golf Ranking, also backed the decision, though she will be unable to play at Lundin due to the aforementioned Women’s Amateur Championship coming to a conclusion on the Ayrshire coast at the same time.
“This is a great opportunity for women to be introduced to this event,” said the two-time Scottish Girls’ champion from Broomieknowe. “Hopefully, it’s the first of many opportunities we will be given. Unfortunately, I can’t play, but it will be interesting to see how it turns out.”
With World Amateur Golf Ranking points on offer, the Lundin event will be open to players with handicap of 0.4 or better. While competing for the main prize, the Denholm Trophy, women competitors will also be playing for a separate piece of silverware.
If no women qualify for the final 36 holes, the leading four after two rounds will progress to the Sunday to compete for that trophy as opposed to it being awarded to the top woman following Saturday’s play.
Clare Queen, performance director at Scottish Golf, said: “We are always looking at ways we can strengthen the female game in Scotland. The opportunity to compete on a great course like Lundin in a high-quality field is a great one for females who compete in Scotland, especially during the quieter summer months."