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"Lord, I don't ask that I should win, but please, please don't let me finish behind Akabusi."

Innocent Egbunike's prayer at the 1988 Olympics

Women to play in the open Championship?

In the not too distant future there could be a woman in the Open Championship. For the first time the rules officially allow for women golfers to compete alongside the men.

The secretary of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club said that the R & A was making the change because they wanted the tournament to be truly open and they did not want to cause any offence to women.

The move brings the Open into line with the USGA which removed the word "male" from its entry forms. A few women such as Michelle Wie and Annika Soranstam have played in men's tour events in the US.

Women players will have to take part in regional and final qualifying, thus sacrificing two potential lucrative tournaments on their own tour.

Is it a good thing?

We asked Alison Nicholas, winner of the US Women's Open and British Women's Open in her time, if playing in the [Men's] Open would appeal to her. "Not really. If it had been possible when I was at my best, I doubt if I would have entered. I can't compete with men. I don't hit the ball far enough. I wouldn't have given up two tournaments just for the remote chance of qualifying".

Alison added, "If I were a male pro, I probably wouldn't be best pleased at the prospect of losing my place in the tournament to a woman who has her own Opens to play in. If the R & A really want to do something for Women's golf, I think there are a lot better things they could have done".

Dr Kitrina Douglas, whose doctorate was on women golfers, and was herself a top woman professional says. "There is nothing new in women playing in men's events. I did it many times in my career. As men's sport is validated by our society much more than women's, women have to compete with men for recognition.

"If the R&A was serious about having women in the Open Championship, they would have them compete on equal terms, ie using forward tees to compensate for women's lesser physiological strength."

Is it a good thing for women? Kitrina Douglas is not convinced. "Arguably it is a bad thing for women. If one or two women succeed in qualifying for the Open, the danger is that all women golfers will be compared unfavourably with them. I think women should feel good about themselves for who they are, not for who they are I comparison with men".

Stuart Weir

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