In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car England’s Meghan MacLaren, a two-time winner on the Ladies European Tour, writes about wanting to emulate Billie Jean King, the pain of finishing second at the Jordan Mixed Open and her pride at representing her country in the GolfSixes presented by Cascais.
I never started out on social media just to stand up for women's sport. I've always tried to be a bit more open and honest on there, but more so in the ups and downs of professional sport. I don't think it really gets talked about enough. Like the way so many professional athletes are just posting about all the same stuff. I know a lot of it is necessary and you have to keep sponsors happy and all the rest of it, but it gets tiring for me as a player, so I can't even imagine how tiring it is for a golf fan. I've always just tried to be consistent and however I'm feeling, I won't hide from it on social media, whether that's good or it's bad. Whenever something like Jordan happens, that was possibly the reason why I had so much support – because I'd been open about what I believe and what I stand for. I feel like with any player it means a bit more if you know more about them. It's as simple as that.
When it comes to golf, I'll try and be that Billie Jean King figure as much as I can, in terms of promoting the women’s game. I've also spoken about Andy Murray in the past. I suppose tennis didn't realise, or possibly still doesn't, how lucky it was to have a figure like Andy Murray, who was at the top of the game making comments promoting women's tennis, without ever being prompted. I think that was the difference. If you do it without being prompted, it helps to change all these stereotypes and the preconceived ideas. Whereas, at the moment, in golf it feels like you have to be asked.
You get people saying 'women in golf deserve better' and that's like this massively controversial headline. When there shouldn't really be a big deal when somebody says that. It should be normal. I think it definitely takes players higher up in the game than I am to talk about it and to bring it to the masses, though.
In case anyone needs an example of why the upcoming event in Jordan, featuring men and women playing for the same trophy and prize, is needed to help change perceptions.... these are some of the comments on the @BBCSport article about the event. #becrazyenoughtochangetheworld pic.twitter.com/W6yNdOcJn8— Meghan MacLaren (@meg_maclaren) March 26, 2019
I would potential play a mixed exhibition match like the famous Billie Jean King one. I suppose with golf it must be under the right conditions. It's always an argument, but a lot of the criticism that I've had just on social media, it comes back to the 'if you're not playing off the same tees then it's never going to be equal' argument. I obviously don't agree with that because there are so many more aspects to golf than just how far you hit it. I think some people just won't buy into anything other than that argument. You'll always be banging your head against a brick wall there. One of the things that Jordan showed is that if it's done properly, it can work. It's a shame it wasn't televised, but I think if more people had seen that play out, then I do think it would have changed a few minds about what women's golf can do. If there was ever some kind of exhibition match, or something that brought those ideas together, then I don't think it would hurt.
Looking back at Jordan, the disappointment probably outweighed the pride initially – but the two have switched since then. It'll always be bittersweet for me looking back at that event. I am proud of how I represented the Tour and women's golf, which was what a lot of other people wanted too. But like any tournament you're there to perform as well as you can and when you break it all down, I was however many shots ahead and I didn't win. That hurts no matter who you are or where you're playing. It's hard to get away from that initially. Everything that came off the back of that performance, it was quite overwhelming. I was mainly incredibly proud to be part of the Ladies European Tour, and to see so many people support what I did that week.
The Solheim Cup is still a pipe dream, but I can see myself there now. Catriona Matthew text me after my runner-up finish in Jordan. She just said ‘congratulations’ and ‘keep up the good performances.’ It's nice, obviously, to know that somebody like that is paying attention to what you're doing. Of course, the Solheim Cup is something that I want. No player would argue with wanting to be in The Ryder Cup or the Solheim Cup because it's the pinnacle of both games. I know two years ago when the last Solheim Cup was on, I watched a lot of it. It was probably the most I've ever been invested in one and I think it was because I was in my first year as a professional and felt a lot closer to it. It's definitely driven me over the last couple of years, but I suppose, like I said before, I just constantly want to get better within myself and wherever that takes me is wherever it takes me.
In Jordan we were all playing for the same prize fund of the same tournament, which I think is complicated to actually make work. They obviously did an incredible job in Jordan, but whether that can work having more than a couple of events a year doing that, I think would just be too complicated. Having events like the Vic Open gives women's golf a new audience. If they're already there watching the men's golf and engaging with men's sport, then I think that's a good thing for the publicity and exposure of women's golf too. One of the things I've tried to say all along is that women's golf can stand on its own two feet. It's just the case of making other people realise that and having joint events or having events where women and men play alongside each other just helps promote that message.
Gutted 🥈— Meghan MacLaren (@meg_maclaren) April 6, 2019
Golf... it’ll get you.
But there’s some pride in there too.. of myself, of women’s golf, of golf as a whole. Of everyone who made this happen.
Thank you to all those who have supported me this week.. it’s overwhelming and means the world.
One year ago, I wrote my own blog on the state of the women’s game, and there has definitely been a lot of change since then. It's hard to know though, because sometimes you think some things are just for show and to look like you're doing the right thing. And whether the underlying structures and balances of women's sport vs men's sport – I think that's still got a long way to go, which is why I still want to talk about it and why I want other people to talk about it. I don't want people to assume that because there's been a few events that promote women's golf that suddenly that makes everything okay. Having said that, there's definitely more happening now than there was five years ago, or even a year ago.
GolfSixes is a cool way to reach a different audience. It was one of the first tournaments to invite women along, and it was great watching Charley Hull, Georgia Hall, Carlotta Ciganda and Catriona Matthew play with the men last year. It'll be fun to play with Florentyna this year too. I like her a lot because she just says what she thinks and gets on with it. She doesn't beat around the bush. Whatever experiences she's had at the Solheim Cup, I'll be trying to get that out of her and I’m sure she won't be shy in telling me either. She's also won tournaments and she's been through ups and downs in her career, like me, and I think you can always learn from anybody who has experienced the highs and the lows of the game. It'll be fun to team up because, and I think every player says this, golf's such an individual sport, so any time you get a chance to do something with another player or a group of players, it's just more fun. It gives you a break from the routine. The same with women coming to play in what's technically a European Tour event. It's just cool to have a different audience to normal and to just see how a men's event is put on and run.