GARY LEMKE asks what about the 10-under-par 61 by Hyo Joo Kim at the 2014 Evian Championship?
It took caddie Zack Rasego to inform Branden Grace that he’d made history at The Open Championship. ‘Zack was up there and said, “Congrats” and I was like, “OK, cool, I played a good round”. He said, “That’s in the history books” and I said, “What are you talking about?”’
By that stage the millions following Grace’s stunning round on TV were aware of the achievement before he was. He had produced the first 62 in Major golf history.
Except, he hadn’t.
Men’s history, yes, but do the 62s of Minea Blomqvist (2004), Lorena Ochoa (2006) and Mirim Lee (2016) not count? Or, what about the 10-under-par 61 by Hyo Joo Kim at the 2014 Evian Championship?
In the male-dominated world of golf, seemingly not. Grace was magnificent in that third round at Royal Birkdale and despite 30 men’s golfers previously having shot 63s in Majors, none had recorded a 62.
The South African therefore goes into the history books as the first. That is despite his eight-under-par coming on a par-70 course, and that on eight previous occasions male golfers have shot nine-under-par on par-72 courses. It was a moment for Grace to savour and for South Africa to celebrate along with him.
It was at Wimbledon that world No 1 Andy Murray received wide praise for calling out a journalist’s question that was subsequently classed as ‘casual sexism’ and ‘ignorant’. An American journalist asked him, ‘Sam Querrey is the first US player to reach a major semi-final since 2009, how would you describe …?’
Murray then interrupted to say, ‘Male player.’
And if you are asked a trivia question, ‘Who has won the most tennis singles Grand Slams?’ or ‘Who has shot the lowest round in golf’s Majors?’ the correct answers are Serena Williams and Hyo Joo Kim, not Roger Federer and Branden Grace.
I am not suggesting that Kim is a better golfer than Grace and I accept that a woman doesn’t have the power to shoot 62 off the back tees. But, you can’t ignore the fact a 61 has been shot in Major golf.
Even the LPGA Tour director of public relations, who tweets almost exclusively about women’s golf, tweeted: ‘Astonishing round of 62 by South African Branden Grace … the lowest score ever in a Major championship’, while retweeting the official Open account (with ‘only’ 419 000 followers) saying that Grace shot the lowest round in Major history. He later corrected himself, but only after it was pointed out that it was a men’s record.
Still, the TV commentators and much of the golfing media continued in their ignorant way right through to the end of the tournament.
Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise given that there is a huge gulf between men and women in golf. It remains a largely male bastion of sporting society. Women’s prize money and media exposure are negligible compared to the men, and TV executives and sponsors only have eyes for the men.
There are also many golf clubs around the world that don’t allow women to become members, and it was only last year that Royal Troon was given permission at the 11th hour to stage the 2016 Open Championship after ‘a positive show of hands in a vote’ to accept women.
In March this year, after Muirfield had lost the right to stage The Open because of its stance on women members, the club announced a change of heart, declaring that 80% of its male members had voted to allow women. Which still means that 20% – one in five – voted against it. But, because of the waiting list, it will take two to three years for Muirfield to admit its first female member.
Really, this is 2017 – AD, not BC.
– This article first appeared in the September issue of Compleat Golfer