Driving Change: Golf's Battle For Equality


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Driving Change: Golf's Battle For Equality

With the US Women's Open taking place at Trump National this month, Sarah Mulkerrins travels to the US to examine the history of women's involvement in the sport.


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I got a threat letters in my life. I couple of times they tried to run me

:00:13.:00:20.

off the highway as I was driving. I really did feel like my life was in

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danger. Growing up, golf was not for us. You look like you don't play

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golf. What is the local golf? As far as they were concerned, we are

:00:32.:00:33.

trash, so that's all we deserve. Golf, for many it is a hobby, The

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Sun career, but not so long ago if you were black or a woman it wasn't

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even an option. In the USA until 1961 professional golfers

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Association had a Caucasian only clause. Until then black players had

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to play in their own events. For women, their first players

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association was set up in 1950, yet it was only in 2014 and one of the

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oldest clubs in the world, the Royal and Ancient, voted to admit female

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members. So how far has the sport come in embracing race and gender

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diversity? William J Powell, or Bill as he was known, was born the

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grandson of slaves in Alabama in 1916. He moved to Ohio in a teenager

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and play golf at his school and college. In 1946 he returned from

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serving in the US Air Force during the Second World War. But he was

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banned from the all-white public courses in the area. With the world

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of golf all the closed to William Powell, he had his own vision, a

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course open to all. In the 1940s this was an old dairy farm. He spent

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two years working at night as a security guard, and by day he hand

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seeded this course. In 1948 is opened. William Powell was a

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pioneer, and he was watched on by his daughter Renae. My first members

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of the' -- memories of heading golf clubs were with my dad, I was around

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four years old and was hitting golf balls and trying to hit them down to

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where the creek was, the water. This is a picture of my mum and dad. This

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was number three green, that comes down here. We're standing on the

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first tee, and behind us is number three green. Your mum play golf? By

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Monday, my dad got us all involved in the game. My mum used to tease,

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she would say that when I was a little girl I used to run out and

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play and she would say, Colback in! And then I just continue to play the

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game. The LPGA had not started and mighty and 50 four stop I joined the

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Tour in 1967. At that time there were a lot of tensions in our

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country. Sometimes we were going to restaurants and it would serve

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everybody but me. And my remit on Tour, a Canadian pro, a few years

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ago she said, I used to wonder why would go to restaurants and they

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would serve their body else but us. I said, Sandra I didn't want to tell

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you it was because you were a Canadian, I didn't want you to feel

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bad! But things like that. I remember going home crying telling

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my parents the first time I got a threat letter I thought they would

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tell me to come home and they didn't! I thought, evidently they

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don't think somebody is quick to jump out from behind a tree and

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shoot me. Is that letters were saying? They were just say, dear N,

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he better not play if you know what is good for you. I went out a

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director and shot in the letters and he said, there is nothing we can do

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about it. Cos I really thought something would happen. But it

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didn't. One of the great players, and Hall of Famer 's, I had walked

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into the Wattel and the lost my reservation, and Cathy said, we all

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stay, we all walk. Those individuals knew me before I joined the Tour,

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and everybody... I had no problems with players on the Tour, it was the

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outside. She was there in the heart of racism and discrimination. And

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you see that kind of thing had just become institutionalised in this

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country, because even the country set of laws against us. I had some

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inkling of probably the challenges that she would have had, but you

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never got a hint of that from her. She never talked about it until you

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fully set down and had a real heart-to-heart discussion. It was

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not something she would ever show, that that was part of her history or

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even her father's history. I admired her spirit, but she was able to stay

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out there, because I'm aware of the cruelty that Shakespearean. -- that

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she experienced. I thought about summoning people that came before me

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and I always felt strongly that we stand on the shoulders of those who

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came before us. There were people who did so much to allow others, to

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give others freedom. Helen Webb Harris was one of those who paved

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the way. A schoolteacher and wife of a doctor, she was tired of staying

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at home while her husband played golf, so Helen, along with 12

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friends, founded their ladies club in 1937. The first African-American

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women's golf club in the USA. The only place they could play was a

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three hole golf course down at the mosh and in Monument. -- the

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Washington monument. And they were taunted by white teenagers. They

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threw rocks at them. And they were called names and all kinds of

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things. But they persisted. The battle began here in Washington, DC.

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80 years ago this was a rubbish dump, full of broken glass, rusty

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tins and old tyres. The ladies were campaigning for the desegregation of

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public golf courses, but in 1938 they were given this. They were

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collecting trash on this course, and even when they built the course they

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had to play over the last bottles and cans. It's not so bad to me that

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it was put on a crash dump, we should have tried to take away the

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trash. But you see, as far as they were concerned, we were trash, so

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that's all we deserved. It was a dump, but they embraced that dump

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and they were going to make it their own, and they came out here with

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much pride and conviction to make this work for them. The Wake-Robin

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ladies continue to push for the opening of courses in Washington,

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DC, and in 1941 the district confirmed they would do so. Their

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battle for equality and then just there. They were also part of the

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movement to force the PGA to drop its whites only rule, which it did

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in 1961. Knowing where it started, all the historical individuals had

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come through this course, and I think I probably went by Langston

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many times before becoming a member of Wake-Robin, and not fully knowing

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all the history of Langston. My name is Elizabeth Rice McNeill. I have

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been in clubs 60 years. I came to Washington, DC from Pennsylvania. I

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lived with my auntie, she took me to church, and the church I went to was

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Sarah Smith's church, and she was a golfer. I went to her house to a

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meeting, and she had a big piano with these huge trophies on it. And

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I was fascinated by that. So we got a bunch of young girls together and

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reformed a little club. We had about 18 young girls who started out

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playing golf. I had never heard of golf before. I got hooked on it.

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Elizabeth Rice McNeill isn't unique individual or brown. -- she is a

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unique individual. Is it right you have six holes in one. I have six

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holes and one in my golfing career. That's phenomenal! It is, it is. We

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don't have any weak women in this club. We have had good, principled

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women, good leaders, who have kept this club going all these years.

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Eight decades after that first meeting, inclusion and support are

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still at the heart of their mission. The Helen Webb scholarship honours

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the memory of their founder by supporting young woman dreaming of

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turning professional. As a young female trying to play, it is

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difficult because there aren't that many, especially African-Americans.

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It tears me apart that there really aren't any, and just not what

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happened between the time of Renee and on. They kept pursuing even when

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it was tough, and that's what I'm trying to do, as hard as I can.

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These ladies just helped me so much. In 1962 tennis great day Gibson

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became the first African-American woman to complete any LPGA Tour.

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Powell followed in 1967. It took another 28 years for the next black

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player to arrive in 1995. Since then others, most recently Mariah

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Stackhouse, have all made it. Eight African-American women in six to

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seven years. -- 67 years. There are situations where you feel genuinely

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uncomfortable and you feel you need to get out of that situation. People

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staring at you, wondering whether you work there come a not golfing in

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the adjournment, or asking where you are from. I get the occasional, "Are

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you Tiger Woods' Nice?" It's not that they don't mean to be

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discriminating or rude or anything, but sometimes people will think just

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because you are African-American... But thankfully I am in a generation

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where it is not too horrible as to what Renee had to go through all

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those years ago. It makes me stride. I believe it has a long way to go,

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because still I go into a store and I have a golf outfit on, and you

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meet people that say," I didn't know that minorities play golf. You look

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like you don't play golf." Well, what is the look of golf? You're

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right, it is a male, Caucasian dominated sport. And I think that

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right now it is getting better, which is inclusion. That's the big

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thing. Inclusion and having access to the game. And not just getting

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started, but continuing to have the opportunity to go ahead and think,

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you know what? I want to do this professionally. It works out, great,

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if not, I will work on the golf industry. It is getting better, to

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slow progress, but it is progress. Playing out here with a course that

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is so much history, and playing with Renee, it is so inspiring to me.

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Every time I see her and the others, Sadena Parks, Mariah Stackhouse and

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the others, it is great to be around them because first off there are

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great people, they have great characters, and we all have

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something in common. Being the next one to make it onto. In 2015 Renee

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Powell was again making history. After the break through to allow

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female members into the Royal and Ancient, she was one of the first

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women to be invited. To me it is the highest honour one can ever get, the

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Old Course! The Royal and Ancient, with golf began, right there! To be

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one of the first seven women that was selected from around the entire

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world was absolutely amazing. And to me also it was a win in a sense for

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women. It was a win for African-Americans and my family. So

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when I actually walked through the door as a bonus ID member, it was

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like all these other women were walking with me and my whole family

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was going with me. It's just amazing. I'm so appreciative of that

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membership. But it is all due to all the sacrifices that my family had to

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make to be a part of something that is real history, and the fact that

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it was your family or your parents let me that history, yeah. And I'm

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the one that really gets a chance to benefit from it. On the face of it,

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golf has come a long way to ridding itself of the explicit barriers

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towards minorities and women. But how many implicit barriers remain?

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Let's say you managed to play the sport as a youngster and perhaps go

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to college scholarship was Mike you're good enough, so you look to

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make it a career in turn professional. How difficult is that?

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For high near Alvarez, it proved very tough. For me personally it was

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a struggle just to find sponsors. That was one main reason that I

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decided to stop playing was because I was just exhausted of having to

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ask people for money. I had played decent, I had finished third at a

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European Tour event of the year, I had made the cut at the US Open, so

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I felt like I had proved myself as a player in many regards where I was

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hoping that someone would take a chance on me, and I was barely just

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covering my expensive. It is several thousand dollars a year just for

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entry fees. And then you are looking at paying your caddy, up to $2000 a

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week, and then flights, rental cars, hotels if you cannot find post

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housing. It can range from 50,000 a year from just the expenses itself

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-- up to $75,000 a year. And that puts much pressure on it took away

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the joy of playing because I was constantly worrying how to pay for

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the next element. If I don't pay well, how will I pay rent? How will

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I live outside my golf expenses? And I just decided from a mental health

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and well-being it was better to step away from it rather than put myself

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into debt as I know others had done. In 2016 15 female golfers earned

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over $1 million in prize money on the LPGA Tour. 110 male golfers

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crossed that mark on the PGA Tour. The biggest chance of earnings comes

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in the Majors. Combined, the offer $17.8 million in prize money, with

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the US women's open offering the largest amount. This year it has

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increased to $5 million in total that is one of the most important

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events of the year. 80 years after Helen Webb Harris founded the first

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black women's golf club in the USA, the oldest major for women's, the US

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Open, is being criticised for being healthier. We are at Trump National

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in New Jersey, owned by Donald Trump. There have been calls to have

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the major mover boycotted because of his rubber tree comments towards

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women and minorities. -- his derogative comments. I know some

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people didn't want it there, and it was a really tough decision. There

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was a lot of backlash against it, and distillers. Understandably so

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because a lot of people are justifiably upset it is being held

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there. The fact they say they can have this event at a Trump course

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because they are apolitical and because Trump is not technically

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violating the rules that they have established about eligibility for

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holding tournaments and that is that the course does not have

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discriminatory policies or practices against minorities and women, and I

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maintain that what Trump has done and said violates the spirit of the

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rule. In response, the US golf Association told us that column :

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The Association also wanted to pay tribute to Renee Powell, a pioneer

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of inclusion in the sport. When you look at women's sport in general,

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controversy seems to be the driving factor of one coverage is given, and

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this is something that is going to take away from just focusing on that

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playing of that week because it will be a huge part of the discussion

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that this is Donald Trump's course and what that means, that it was

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held at his golf course. It is becoming a very political issue that

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I know a lot of players wish it had not become. If you're struggling to

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keep your Tour card at that point and you're in the open, and you are

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dead last in the list, you have to do what you have to do. You've got

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to eat! That's the simplest way to say it. You have to look out for

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yourself, and at that moment make sure that you are still going to be

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will to live your dream. The battles for some continue, but now there is

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a generation enabled and inspired by Helen Webb Harris and the Wake-Robin

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ladies, by Bill and Renee Powell, their vision and determination to

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open up the world of golf. I didn't have somebody to be inspired by that

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looked just like me. All I watched was Tiger Woods. I feel that is

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great for young kids know that they have some girls to look up to that

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are still young and later down the load, maybe 30 years from now, they

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will be following in her footsteps. Our own governing bodies don't tell

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stories, and in fact, they suppress a lot of history. Stories of people

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are coming, stepping up, doing what's right. Making sure these kind

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of important stories about golf and about the evolution of golf need to

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be told. Until we get the numbers up within the organisations of current

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golf, I don't think it's going to change romantically. Because I think

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a lot of things start from the top. Look at the Board of Directors of

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all the golf organisations, and they are mostly old white men. We need to

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be in those positions to actually advocate for change. But they are

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not asking us to be on the board, asking their bodies to be on the

:22:12.:22:15.

board with them. And as a result, not much changes. I truly feel that

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everybody should play golf. It is such an incredible sport and I have

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gained from it. We want the world to know what we are capable of. And not

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be denied their God-given rights that we all have.

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Cloudy and damn picture across many parts on

:23:01.:23:01.