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Inside The Ropes with Genevieve Ling: It’s Not Always Sunny

THERE’S NO DENYING THAT I LOVE GOLF, AND THAT’S WHY I’M PURSUING IT AS A CAREER TODAY. HOWEVER, GROWING UP AS A YOUNG GIRL PLAYING A SPORT THAT MANY DEEM A “GENTLEMAN’S GAME” HAD ITS UPS AND DOWNS

Golf is a great game. It can be played by anyone, of every age group, and it keeps us coming back for more (despite how crazy it can drive us sometimes!). Golf can be beneficial for an individual not only in terms of physical health, but also mental health, and it can even help build meaningful connections that cannot be formed elsewhere.

There is no denying that I love this game, and that is why I’m pursuing it as my career today. However, growing up as a young girl playing a sport that many have deemed a “gentleman’s game” had its ups and downs. ­­­ ­­

Golf is still viewed as a man’s sport. Even in the professional world today, we see article after article from ladies on various tours, talking about the unfair pay gap between men’s and women’s golf.

Growing up as a junior golfer in Malaysia, I had some interesting experiences, to say the least. In some ways, I believe I was fortunate enough to only have picked up golf at the age of 12, rather than when I could barely understand what was happening around me. At the age that I was, I could form my own opinions and understanding, and I’m glad that it’s made me the person I am today.

Once I got into golf, it wasn’t long before I started signing up for competitions. It also didn’t take long for me to get exposed to the not-so-pretty side of competitive golf. I had started competing in some club championships as a practice for the bigger tournaments that I would join – and to be honest, I loved it because my dad, sister and I would all take part in them together.

However, it wasn’t long before I was banned or “discouraged” from joining them as members started making side comments about how it was unfair for us juniors to be competing in these club tournaments. We heard it all … “they are young”, “they are more flexible”, and so on.

Pretty soon, we simply gave up on club championships as all of them started becoming formatted competitions (nett play, bogey play, etc), rather than stroke play . As our handicaps were dropping and others remained the same, we simply didn’t find a purpose in competing in these tournaments anymore (and it wasn’t worth the comments folks made at prize-giving ceremonies as well).

Although I did want to compete in the Champion of Champions (CoC), which seemed to be quite a prestigious title as club champions from various clubs would be competing for one trophy, I was never allowed to because I wouldn’t be allowed to compete in the ‘qualifier’ for the tournament. I believe I was even told once that I had to be 21 years of age to compete in the CoC.

Me in 2015!

So I stopped competing in club championships and started competing with people of my age. As I progressed and started playing bigger tournaments, I went from practicing from the red tees to the white tees and eventually the blues. I remember the first time I started practicing off the blues – I was preparing to compete in the Sime Darby LPGA Championship qualifier; being an LPGA event, it was obviously much longer than I was used to playing (this was when I was around 14 or 15 years of age).

Once this happened, complaints about me started rolling in again, and this time I was told that I wasn’t allowed to tee off from the blue tees anymore. My father and I were both obviously baffled by this as we weren’t sure if this was an actual problem – me simply wanting to play off the blue tees. So we looked up the rules of golf, which clearly states that teeboxes are (or should be) gender neutral. The only determinant of which teebox a player should tee off from is their ability.

At this point, I was around a 2 handicap, and easily driving the ball 200 metres. So why then did I have to write in a request just to play off a certain teebox when others could play off whichever teebox they wanted, even when it did not suit their ability?

Even today, as a professional golfer, I know of certain golf clubs that only allow women to tee off from the reds. This is something I cannot grasp – being judged on my playing ability because I wear a skirt.

Growing up being perceived as “not good” because I’m a girl and because I was young, wasn’t always the best feeling. After getting approval to tee off from the blues, people would watch me walk to the blue tees and make comments like, “Hey girl, the red tees are up there”. And then they would watch me tee off and keep quiet. So I suppose you could say I’ve also acquired a thick skin along the way.

From being barred from competing to being judged based on what I wear – even being called ‘disrespectful’ because I told someone to yell “fore” the next time their ball goes errant (this was because his ball had flown straight into my buggy and would have either hit me or my mum in the head had we not ducked for cover) – I am thankful for everything I have experienced growing up playing this game.

Of course, I’m not saying this to cast a negative light on golfers. I am simply sharing my actual experiences growing up as a golfer here in this country. I have met so many wonderful, supportive people through golf, and I also believe that in general golfers are some of the friendliest people around.

As the saying goes, one rotten apple spoils the whole barrel, and growing up, I definitely met my share of rotten apples. However, every one of those ‘rotten apples’ has given me the resilience necessary in the career that I’m pursuing.

I hope that we can continue playing this game without prejudice and as a beacon of light to every golfer out there, rather than a rotten apple. At the end of the day, we all just want to enjoy playing this wonderful game we call golf.


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