Old Course Holds Its First Women's Golf Tournament
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Women will cross a fame frontier in Scotland this week. For the first time, a women's professional golf tournament will be held on the legendary old course at St. Andrews known as the home of golf - the Women's British Open. Which means that for the first time, women golfers will be given full access to the royal and ancient golf club's clubhouse. The story goes that until not long ago, there was a sign hanging outside the clubhouse that said: No dogs, no women.
LPGA hall of famer Beth Daniel will be playing at St. Andrews in the British Open starting tomorrow. I asked her why it's taking so long for women professional golfers to crack these links.
Ms. BETH DANIEL (Professional Golfer): Well, I'm not sure what took so long, but I think it's a pretty big honor for us to be playing the women's British Open as the first professional tournament, but I wouldn't be able to tell you why it took so long.
BLOCK: I understand you were going to retire after the last season, and you didn't. Why not?
Ms. DANIEL: Well, I finished sixth at the Women's British last year at Royal Lytham and was, therefore, qualified for this British. And since it was at St. Andrews and the first women's professional event here at St. Andrews, I thought it would be pretty neat to play here. So I played a few events to kind of warmed up for this, and have really enjoyed my week thus far.
BLOCK: I was just reading about the old course, and thinking about this that Mary, Queen of Scots was hitting golf balls there in the fifteen hundred.
Ms. DANIEL: Exactly, and when you read the history of St. Andrews' Mary, Queen of Scots is very strong and that history of St. Andrews as is Joyce weathered it, and it has a pretty strong history of women playing but never professionally for whatever reason.
BLOCK: How does the course look to you?
Ms. DANIEL: The course is good. It's very difficult. It's a lot of strategy. It's very different from any golf course you would ever see even in Scotland and England. It's very different from all of those golf courses because it's just 100 percent natural - no dirt was moved, as we do on all of our golf courses in the United States. Just as the terrain was is what you get. And the greens are very undulating, the fairways are very undulating. And there are certain holes you get up on the tee, and, you know, on your first look, you have no idea where to hit the ball. So, like I say, it requires a lot of strategy and a lot of knowledge.
BLOCK: What kind of strategy and knowledge does it take to do well there?
Ms. DANIEL: Well, I think you have to have a great imagination to play well here. And, you know, in the United States, we kind of play the ball in the air a lot. This golf course should play the ball in the ground. I've seen players putt from 50 yards short of the green or around the green, and that's something that you would never see in the United States. And there are particular pin placements that you don't even try to hit the green because the bunkering is so severe around the pin placement, so you try to hit it somewhere around the green where you can then get the ball up and down. So that's what I mean by different strategy.
BLOCK: When you've been there talking with your fellow women golfers, is there much talk about this being a historic moment, and what this might mean for women's golf?
Ms. DANIEL: Oh, I think absolutely. There's been a lot of talk about the historic moment that this is. And like I say, you know, the players are talking about it, the - a lot of people have come over from the United States even to see this, and I think everyone is very excited about the week.
BLOCK: Well, Beth Daniel, thanks for talking with us. Best of luck with the tournament.
Ms. DANIEL: Okay, thanks so much.
BLOCK: LPGA hall of famer Beth Daniel will be playing at St. Andrews in the women's British Open starting tomorrow. It will be the first time a women's professional golf tournament has been played there.
Now one last upbeat story from the world of golf: An Italian golfer has been suspended after failing a drug test. Alessandro Pissilli, who plays on the Italian professional tour, now faces a possible two-year ban. He tested positive for a substance often used to mask steroid use. Pissilli says he says he was taking the substance for a medical condition.
Neither the women's or men's golf tours in the U.S. currently test for drugs, although, the LPGA will start testing its members next year. Drug scandals in baseball, cycling, track and field and now golf. Is nothing sacred? Say it ain't so, Alessandro, say it ain't so.
It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.