A long way to equality

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Even a typically Scottish evening – dark, cold and wet – wasn’t enough to dampen the spirits of a very optimistic and excited Zhanna Tarasko as she spoke at great length about all things Ladies Golf. The Women’s 1st team captain personified the passion within the club for the sport; both at a university and international level.

When talking about the competitive team and its recent improvement what is most evident is the winning mentality now ingrained within the club. Over the past five years the team have enjoyed “more victories and more success” than ever before and this is something that Tarasko is looking to help continue. After a disappointing runners-up position finish in the BUCS third division last year everyone is “hoping to try and get promotion” in order to put more distance between themselves and the men’s team they have left behind in lower leagues.

The first-team squad now made up of 30 members – 20 of whom are off handicaps of five or below – have weekly range sessions, strength and conditioning training and cardio work in order to facilitate their improvement. It is not just the regular training being put in by the girls, however.

The club now have a psychologist who has “been really helpful”, especially for the girls off high single-figure handicaps. He is clearly held in high esteem by the club as a whole. “His advice has been great” according to Tarasko and she points out how he has been helpful in making the girls understand, on a level far deeper than the technicalities of a golf swing, why a certain bad shot was played. Commitment to a shot is the order of the day. He also aids the girls with their difficulty in “balancing university work, social life and golf”. Seeing as “technique is important up to low, single-figure handicaps” once you get below five the focus in more on the “mental game”, he has been a godsend.

Away from the course the club is very active socially with around 60 committed social members who get involved in the club by taking lessons, attending presentations from the club’s sponsor Accenture and getting involved in socials.

The bi-annual pub golf is one of the highlights, apparently. The international success of two of the girls, Gabrielle Macdonald and Alisa Summers, has also helped “to drum up support within the club” for the game as a national and international spectacle. Zhanna herself is also part of the Russian reserve team. Evidently, the Ladies’ Golf Club is doing something right.

Although it is trying to improve, albeit in a fairly mild-mannered way, the game of golf itself is still doing a lot wrong. Despite the successful vote to allow women to become members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, which was described as a “great step for female golf” the sport is still inflicted with serious issues. The inherent values that fester in places such as the infamous clubhouse on Golf Place are a case in point.

Tarasko does believe that the mood within the previous all-gentleman’s clubs is changing otherwise “they would’ve simply voted no”. Remarkable, and yet undeniable simplicity.

However, “It’s still going to take quite a bit of time for women to get recognised as equal members to men”; especially when clubs such as Muirfield still do not allow Hazel Irvine inside the clubhouse to present the British Open on BBC. We can expect it to be “a good five or six years”, at the very least, until woman can enjoy anything that is remotely close to true equality within the game of golf.

Tarasko doesn’t let the Royal and Ancient vote take over the discussion however. She keeps the focus on the club and the work it does in a student environment. She talks about the alumni weekend and the simple benefits of playing golf, even in a purely social and relaxed setting: “a therapeutic game”, and who would disagree when you take in the spectacular sights golf courses can produce. The 17th on the Castle Course is evidence enough.

Since 2010 the Ladies’ Golf Club has undergone a radical change. Be it the transformation from a “recreational club” into a “competitive” one or even something as simple as online sign-ups. The atmosphere is changing and there is something discernibly, but impressively professional about it. The high turnouts to strength and conditioning training at 7:30 am on Thursday mornings are testament to the loyalty, commitment and drive of the girls within the club.

After notching up their first win of the season at Ladybank Golf Course recently it would take a very brave person to bet against them securing a second promotion in three years. There is certainly no lack of quality within the club. Nor the work ethic. Unlike women’s golf elsewhere, the possibilities are endless.

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