The moving moment at Royal Troon was important for several reasons, and Harriet Shephard was able to witness it in person.
This week marks Dame Laura Davies’ 40th appearance in the Women’s British Open.
Let’s just let that sink in for a minute.
She played her first as a 16-year-old amateur in 1980, nine years before I was born and almost 20 years before a large majority of the current LET and LPGA Tour players were.
More importantly, 40 years ago the suggestion that venues like Royal Troon, Muirfield and Royal St. George’s would one day host professional women’s tournaments will have seemed utterly ridiculous.
So, I can’t imagine how Laura must have felt when she stepped up to the tee at the first ever ladies’ tour event at Royal Troon, also marking her own milestone appearance.
Amazingly, I was also there to witness it.
And it wasn’t just amazing because it meant I managed to get up before 6am.
Everything about the experience was rather surreal.
As I explained in my previous blog, being granted entry to the 2020 AIG Women’s Open is a privilege awarded to few.
Held behind-closed-doors with no spectators and only a handful of media allowed, Royal Troon was eerily deserted as I headed towards the first tee for Laura’s 6.30am start.
I didn’t even have an official entrance to go through as the wind had blown the welcome tent down...
Needless to say any players hoping for some “proper Scottish weather” have not been left disappointed this week.
But even at 6am in the morning, one of the biggest events on the ladies’ tour would normally be buzzing with fans, media and figures from the industry.
We weren’t even technically meant to be anywhere near the first tee, but as the security team were no where to be seen, me and a few others gathered to watch her.
Laura was hard to miss as usual, and although she said in her pre-tournament interviews that she was nervous about doing the honours, she really didn’t seem it.
I was later told that I wasn’t allowed to put my photos of her on the tee on social media (sorry guys), but I’m so glad I got to share the moment with her.
In normal times she would have attracted such a huge crowd, but in these weird times we could all just take a quiet moment to appreciate this great player and all she has done for the game in peace.
Hearing her name announced sent shivers down my spine as the significance of this moment truly sank in.
But Laura teed off with no dithering or ceremony, in the classic no-nonsense style she’s known and loved for.
Even the way she described being asked to do the honours is hilarious.
“I don’t think anyone else is stupid enough to do 40 years of this,” she said.
“They rang me and said would you be interested in hitting the first shot, and I thought yes I will, we’ll get around quicker if anything.”
Classic Dame. No time for slow play.
We all know golf lags behind some other sports when it comes to equality, but with all the “traditional” courses slowly coming to realise that accepting and promoting female players is just as much in their interest as it is in ours, we have made huge progress recently.
It seems like just yesterday that Royal Troon voted to allow female members, and that’s because it only happened in 2016.
It’s easy to scoff and criticise them for not doing it before, but change is sometimes a slow process. And the important thing is that it happened, and a few years later they have pulled out all the stops to host this magnificant event.
Plus, with the men’s Open cancelled, the women’s tour has the biggest golf event to be held in the UK this year.
2020 really has come close to giving the ladies’ game the recognition it deserves.
Laura is typically one of the lads and doesn’t like to be too emotional, but I like to think she will have allowed herself to have some feelings at this historical turning point.
I know I did.
Follow the scores HERE.