Stupples welcomes R&A and LGU news
By Michael McEwan
Former women’s British Open champion Karen Stupples has welcomed news that the R&A and Ladies Golf Union are to merge from the beginning of next year.
Stupples told English Club Golfer that she believes the move will ‘immensely benefit’ women’s golf in the UK, which she says has been ‘a bit of an afterthought’ for too long.
“This is really exciting news,” said Stupples. “I can’t imagine it will be anything other than a major boost for the women’s game.
“If you look at men’s golf, the United Kingdom has had an impressive production line in terms of talent over the last number of years. Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Danny Willett, Luke Donald, IanPoulter - all of these guys have risen through the ranks to achieve great things in the pro game.
“However, there have only really been a handful of ladies of similar quality. With any luck, this merger - and the greater access to funding and resources it will surely bring - will help get ladies’ golf on a more even keel.”
Stupples, 42, turned professional in 1998 and, although she had great success - most notably winning the Women’s British Open at Sunningdale in 2004 - she had to fund her early years as a pro by working as a cloakroom attendant for the Port of Dover and waitressing at a public golf course in Kent. It was only when a regular customer at the golf course offered to sponsor her for three years that she was able to focus full-time on golf.
“I was stubborn, determined and very hard-headed,” she admitted. “Had I not been, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have made it. I suspect there are a lot of people like that, a lot of great female players who have been lost to the game because they didn’t get support.”
Stupples also believes that women are the ‘biggest area of potential growth’ in the game.
“The more people who play, the more you can keep the wheels of industry turning,” she added. “As a mum myself, I’m always looking for things to keep my son busy and I know for a fact there are a lot more people out there like that. Golf is a great thing you can do as a family to pass the time. I know a lot is being made right now of the need to speed the game up but sometimes it’s quite good to have something where you can keep the kids busy for two or three hours at a time.”
The R&A and LGU will merge into one unified body from January 1, 2017. The decision to amalgamate the two bodies came after ‘an extensive consultation exercise’. That followed an earlier announcement in February 2015 that the matter was under discussion.
Commenting on the agreement to merge, Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the R&A, said: “The LGU and the R&A have a wealth of experience in running successful championships and we have a shared focus on supporting the development of golf. The merger will enable us to capitalise on the strengths of the two organisations for the wider benefit of the sport, including the development of golf for women and girls.”
LGU chairman Trish Wilson added: “The LGU has a long and proud tradition of supporting women’s and girls’ golf. Building on the strong relationship it already enjoys with the R&A, the LGU looks forward to realising the potential of this merger.”