Golf's glass ceiling is shattered as woman is made ambassador

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The Independent Online

After 104 years, one of the remaining bastions of male domination came tumbling down yesterday as the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) appointed its first woman captain.

After 104 years, one of the remaining bastions of male domination came tumbling down yesterday as the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) appointed its first woman captain.

Beverly Lewis, 57, assumed her position at The Belfry as the ambassador for a sport which remains tarnished with allegations of sexism.

Some of the world's leading clubs continue to refuse to admit women members and her appointment follows a public humiliation for the sport five years ago when an employment tribunal ruled that a female employee of the PGA had been sexually discriminated against when she was sent home for wearing trousers.

There was a public outcry over the attitudes of senior figures within the PGA described in evidence at the hearing. Women golfers were dismissed as "dykes and lesbians", it was claimed, while a training manager, Judy Owen, was told "women don't wear trousers at the PGA".

Yesterday Mrs Lewis was in control and - according to the PGA - there was barely a harrumph audible above the contented clink of gin and tonics in the clubhouse.

A founder member of the Women's PGA, one of the first female professionals to gain PGA membership, a qualified referee, golf lecturer and author, Mrs Lewis is also a member of the BBC TV commentary team.

Among her duties will be presenting the Ryder Cup and promoting interest in the sport. Conceding that there remained pockets of sexism in the game, she said one of her priorities would be to encourage more young women to pick up a set of clubs after 10 years in which sport had been neglected at schools.

"It's quite daunting when you are described as a role model for women. I hope that I am able to show everyone that golf isn't just for grumpy old men and public school boys,'' she said. Nonetheless, she is facing an uphill challenge to rid the sport of the last vestiges of sexism. "There will be a sexist element somewhere but I think less and less so. If a club wants to be all-male, that is up to them. It is their constitution and they are entitled to do that,'' she said.

The PGA chief executive, Sandy Jones, who defended the "no-trousers" policy at the tribunal, has said the public mauling represented a turning point for the organisation. It gave him the chance to "study what equal opportunities really meant". During a later visit to the US Masters at Augusta, he concluded that Mrs Lewis was "perfect" for the job.

Sportswomen who broke the mould

Ellen MacArthur: The yachtswoman received a hero's welcome when she broke the world solo circumnavigation record in February this year. She was immediately made a dame.

Bobbi Gibb: The first woman, in 1966, to run the Boston marathon. She began in disguise after being told women were not "physiologically capable" of the feat. She took off her hood - the crowd cheered, and she finished in the top third.

Billie Jean King: As well as winning 39 grand slam titles, she pioneered the changing way women were seen in sport. Her straight sets victory in 1973 over Bobby Riggs in the "Battle of the Sexes" match was watched by a record 50 million on television.

Michelle Wie: The golf prodigy from Hawaii has accepted an invitation to play in the Open in July. Her ambition is to compete with the men at the Masters in Augusta.

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