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Finding balance: Men and women learning from each other in Northern Ireland

Finding balance: Men and women learning from each other in Northern Ireland

It's aggression versus strategy this week as Andy Sullivan says this week presents a unique chance for men and women to ‘learn different things off each other’ ahead of the historic ISPS HANDA World Invitational presented by Modest! Golf Management. 

Ladies European Tour players Alice Hewson and Olivia Mehaffey agree.

Andy Sullivan

This week’s tri-sanctioned event between the European Tour, LPGA Tour and Ladies European Tour will mark the first time an event of its kind has been held in the Northern Hemisphere – following in the footsteps of the ISPS HANDA Vic Open in Australia which has the same format. In addition, the European Disabled Golfer’s Association (EDGA), will also hold a 36 hole event over the weekend to coincide with the tournament.

The event, which features both a men and women’s event played simultaneously over two courses, offers equal opportunity and prize funds – and it’s something Sullivan is a big advocate for.

“I think it's great, and I think it's the way things should be where we're playing for equal prize funds and going against each other,” said Sullivan.

“At the end of the day we're all competitors. We all want to beat each other. It doesn't matter if you're disabled, lady, male, we want to win.

"I think it's important in the modern times that we have that we have to be diverse. I would have loved to have played the Sweden one where we were all in the same tournament but more of this stuff is showing the old school world that we have a new one coming and it's great."

And the four time European Tour winner, who is the top ranked male golfer competing this week and has two top 10s in his last seven starts, emphasised that one of the big bonuses of playing this format is the opportunity to learn.

“It's fun,” he continued. “I did a golf day on Monday with Alice Hewson and obviously she's fourth in Sweden, and she was just saying how much she learnt from playing with the men, and I said to her, I said, you'd probably be surprised that probably a few of the men probably learned a lot off the ladies, as well.

“I think it's great that we can have these events, and we all get together and we can sort of learn different things off each other because I love it.”

Sullivan’s comments were in response to Hewson stating her own thoughts on learning from the men's game.

Hewson made the perfect start to her professional career last season on the Ladies European Tour by capturing the Investec South African Women’s Open on her first start as a rookie.

Then just a month ago, Hewson held her own to finish third during the co-sanctioned European Tour and Ladies European Tour Scandinavian Mixed event in Sweden.

"It's really exciting, and it's definitely an honour to be a part of like the first one of each event," she said.

"Scandinavian mixed was the first of its kind, but all of these weeks, I just really enjoyed being here, and I think it's so great to see more of those mixed events and I'd like to see more of them in the future for sure. But yeah, just really happy to be here and be a part of them."

And having seen the men in action alongside her, Hewson is now hoping to take inspiration from the more aggressive style of play in the men's game and put it into her own.

“I think we have a lot to learn from the men's game,” she said. “I feel that they play quite aggressively, especially around the greens and on the greens. For me personally that's where I'd like to see my game trend a little bit more to the way that the men play.

“But I think the women play a very different game, as well. I'd say that overall we're a little bit straighter, a little bit shorter but a bit straighter. I think it's all about finding that balance to get the perfect round.”


Hewson is also joined in the field by home talent Olivia Mehaffey, who agreed with her observations but also offered up an idea of what men could learn from the women.

The 23 year old, who turned professional earlier this year, suggested that while the women could learn to be more aggressive, the men could learn how to be strategic.

"Yeah, obviously the guys absolutely bomb it, so I feel like maybe they can learn a little bit of strategy from us,"

said the 23 year old, who turned professional earlier this year.

"I think both of these courses you have to be quite strategic. There's a lot of doglegs. You have to place it very well off the tee. Maybe if they watch us, how we do that, they might learn a little bit from us.

"And then I think obviously watching the men play they're a little bit more aggressive. They go for things when they can, as well. They pick and choose the right times to go for things. I think that kind of aggressive nature, going for par-5s in two and maybe cutting off a few of the drives, that sort of thing, I think we both play quite differently. It's definitely going to be fun for us and also fun for the spectators. If they watch how we play a hole and watch how the guys play a hole, I think that will be quite interesting, the contrast."

And while Mehaffey is taking on board the lessons of watching the men play, she is also hoping that showcasing both the men and women's tournaments at the same time will help to grow the game in many different ways.

"Yeah, amazing to play with the guys and to play in an event with an equal prize fund. I think it just really takes the game to the next level. I think it really helps with the female game and the recognition. I think the guys really enjoy being alongside us. I hope in the future we're going to see more events like this. I think it's very unique and very special, and obviously great to be here. I think it's so good for the women's game and the men's game, as well.

"I got a few messages from younger girls saying they were going to come out this week, and to me that's very special to have that role model figure. I feel like I've been playing this role this week for many of these girls, and if we help grow the game by a few more people this week, I think that will be very, very special."

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