First among equals

UNTIL RECENTLY, a certain prestigious golf club had a sign hanging over the door at the bar reading “No dogs, no women”. In that order of preference. Thankfully, these remaining vestiges of the age of dinosaurs are disappearing rapidly. In a stunning break with tradition, the Royal and Ancient Club has cleared the way for American 15-year-old golf sensation, Michelle Wie, to compete in this year’s Open at St. Andrews, despite the fact that women were barred by the Open’s regulations. The hypothesis will become fact if Wie wins the final PGA Tour event before the Open, the John Deere Classic in Illinois between 7 – 10 July.

But can women ever match men at sports? At the Olympics, the two sexes only compete together in equestrian events, with equal success. Other events that require determination, stamina and endurance above sheer physical power, such as swimming the Channel, are also held on an equal footing. Only a handful of men can match Paula Radcliffe over the marathon distance of 26.2 miles and snooker player Alison Fisher, under the guise of the ‘Duchess of Doom’ now occupies fifth place amongst the men in the overall US pool Top 20. Both Ellen MacArthur and Princess Anne reached the pinnacle of their respective disciplines, brushing aside their male challengers in the process.

Where sheer brawn makes the difference, women can of course not compete. Driving distances in golf, hitting power in tennis, sprinting, boxing, you name it, men will always be stronger and faster. That is the nature of things and I would not want to change the physical make-up of the fairer sex. But in all other departments, skill, tactics or the will to win, women are more than men’s equal.