This week, 28 year old Kylie Walker tells us what it is like to be a girl in the world of golf. Kylie is currently the leading Scottish female golfer on the Ladies European Tour and has won three titles this year including; The Deloitte Ladies Open, in Amsterdam; and the German Open, in Munich.
As a young girl golf caused me a lot grief well before I ever took up the sport! Being the youngest in my family I was always left at home with my mum on Sunday mornings as my dad took my three older siblings for their weekly game. I felt completely left out and would often be found in tears on the front steps begging to go with them. Our local club had a policy that meant juniors had to be fourteen or older before they could play or take membership. Fortunately, this policy has been amended and they now welcome junior players at a far earlier age.
In a sport that has always been shrouded in tales of sexism and inequality, this age discrimination has been my only bad experience in the game. Nonetheless, as soon as I turned fourteen I got my first set of clubs and nothing could hold me back. Never mind the weekly game, I played every chance I got and I loved it. Still, I have always been aware of the stigma surrounding golf and it being a male dominated sport but fortunately attitudes and rules in the governing body are changing.
Most significantly is the recent vote by the members of the Royal & Ancient Club. The R&A Club is one of the oldest and most prestigious golf clubs in the world, located in St Andrews and it is universally regarded as the the 'home of golf'. In it's 260 year history women have never been allowed to become members or even permitted entry to the clubhouse. All that has changed as of 18th September 2014 when the R&A published the results of their vote to allow female membership. The vote was open to their 2400 global members; all men; and I'm delighted to see that 85% voted in favour of allowing women members. This is a massive step forward not only for women in golf but for golf in general. It helps break down some of the negative attitudes toward the sport for being completely out of date and prejudiced against women. The exclusion of women in any sport is completely sexist and it's certainly about time that this decision was made. It is no surprise that it is a common misconception that Golf is an acronym for 'Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden.' This has always made me laugh but even as early as 1567 it was reported that Mary Queen of Scots enjoyed playing golf or 'gowf' as it was called back then.
I don't know if I've been lucky but I've never experienced any prejudice because of my sex. I have always had great support from men and women within the game. Particularly, professionals on the men's tour seem to have an appreciation for the girl's side as they are aware of the hard work and dedication that so many female professionals put into their career. In my time as a professional the women's game has gone from strength to strength. Even in these short 5 years the depth of talent on the Ladies European Tour and LPGA has grown significantly. This has been great motivation for myself as I always feel I need to keep working hard at all aspects of my game in order to contend. I feel that golf has always been slow at keeping up with society, but I'm happy to see that it has certainly in the last few years, become more fashionable. This is evident on the fairways as more and more you're seeing brighter and more attractive outfits, which I think can only better sell ladies golf to younger girls.
For me I've drawn inspiration from other Scottish female golfers. Particularly, Belle Robertson. Belle is regarded as one of the all time greats of women's golf. She played in era where I imagine it was tougher for a woman to succeed. However, she was a trailblazer and set a number of records. I'm very fortunate to count Belle as a close friend and mentor. During her career Belle remained amateur as all top players of her era did. There was very little money on offer for professional women and it lagged behind the men's professional tours for prestige and notability.
Still in the present day there is a huge discrepancy between the prize funds that the men play for compared to the women. It would be great to see more equality in prize funds and I'm sure one day it will come. It seems to slowly be improving as more sponsors take interest in the women's game. I hugely appreciate and respect my own sponsors, namely Aberdeen Asset Management, Scottish Hydro, Scottish Institute of Sport, Clarke Transport and Mar Hall. Not just for their support of me but for their continued efforts in raising the profile of Scottish golf and giving players like myself the platform to succeed.
I just love to play. I can't say I've ever been held back. I've even been fortunate to play the other courses in Scotland where women have been excluded, namely Muirfield and Royal Troon. It's great to see the R&A taking this step forward in promoting equality in the game. It will also give women representation within the governing body which is a necessity. I appreciate the traditional side to the game and I believe many of the traditions can be protected without having to exclude anyone regardless of sex, age or race. After all everyone should be allowed the freedom to play and enjoy the sport that so many love around the world.