British golfer Mel Reid has called for more male players to openly support the women's game, saying the sport needs a leading advocate "like Kobe Bryant or Andy Murray".
This week Reid came under fire online after she criticised last weekend's TaylorMade Driving Relief charity event for failing to include any women in its line-up. Rory McIlroy won the match, competing alongside Americans Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff, in the first televised men's tournament in more than two months.
Though Reid has since applauded all involved for raising $5 million for Covid-19 relief efforts, she expressed dissatisfaction on Twitter with the lack of diversity and received widespread criticism as a result, even from fellow male professional golfers.
"Of course I felt the charity was great, the four guys are awesome guys," Reid said in an interview with Telegraph Sport. "All I was saying was it would have been pretty cool if you would have got a couple of the girls involved [to] really bring golf back to TV, and I think it was an opportunity missed.
"Golf just doesn’t get it. They do Soccer Aid where they bring in Kelly Smith, I think that’s awesome, that’s how it should be. I couldn’t believe the comments I was getting. It was disgusting, people took [what I said] completely out of context.
"A couple of male pros — guys that I've been friends with since I was 12-years-old — said, 'Of course the women have to pipe up [about] a charity event'. I'm sorry, but just because it was a charity event, it's not going to take away my opinion. I still think women should have been involved. I was really disappointed."
Reid said that if more major players on the men's tour advocated for the women, they would be respected more widely, as has been the case in other sports. In February, former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy spoke out in support of women's golf at the Victoria Open, where both men and women compete in simultaneous separate events for equal prize money, and Reid said that was a "huge" moment.
"When Geoff said, 'Listen, these girls are really good and there's more than just men's golf in the world' that was huge for us. Me being here in America, I think that I've just seen what, for example, Kobe Bryant was doing for women's basketball. The NBA players voluntarily choose to go with their families to WNBA games, wearing WNBA gear which is just so powerful, because it is a male-dominated world.
"Very rarely do we see any guys at our tournaments, or tweeting about it, or talking about it. And we always talk about the guys, because we love golf and we're huge fans of the guys. But there's just no talk about us. It would help us, for a respect point of view, if the boys just started to talk about us a little bit. If we just had a voice, like Andy Murray does for tennis."
Other women in golf also expressed disappointment with the TaylorMade Driving Relief, with American player Cheyenne Woods tweeting this:
I’d love to see a match like this with mixed teams. #DrivingRelief
— Cheyenne Woods (@Cheyenne_Woods) May 17, 2020
And former player and broadcaster Henni Zuel posting this:
Not taking away anything from the great job done by all but next time round I would LOVE to see more diversity both on the course and in the commentary team.
— Henni Zuel (@hennizuel) May 17, 2020
British golfer Meghan MacLaren also waded in, and though she did not outwardly criticise the event, she echoed similar sentiments on how little recognition female golfers receive, by referring to various achievements made by women in the game in a powerful tweet.
"If I told you the number one player in the world broke a nearly 20 year old record held by Tiger Woods when she went 114 consecutive holes without a bogey, would you be impressed?" MacLaren wrote. "If I told you a rookie had a win, more top 10s and more runner up finishes than Robert McIntyre last year, would you be able to name her?"
Speaking to Telegraph Sport, she said women being omitted from the conversation around golf's return is a sign of a lack of respect, pointing out that competitive action actually returned three days before the TaylorMade charity event, when the Korean LPGA Championship teed off last Thursday.
"It just reiterates the whole idea that women's golf doesn't exist or doesn't matter," MacLaren said. "South Korea is a really interesting case study because women's golf is far more popular there than men's golf. But that's in part because of the visibility and investment that's gone in over the years.
"That's the point I've been trying to make, if that level of investment and coverage was given across the board, all around the world, we'd be in a different situation now.
"The point I made was it would be nice if one day in the future, something like [the TaylorMade Driving Relief event] just happens and there are women there just because they’re considered equal. It would be nice to be in a world where that was kind of normal."