Robin Scott-Elliot: Hazel shines but sexism of golf means it's a good sport spoilt
View From The Sofa: The Open, BBC1/BBC 2
Monday 18 July 2011
Hazel Irvine presented the BBC's coverage of the Open from Sandwich, a golf club she cannot become a member of because she is a woman. After the day's play, she has to wait outside for Peter Alliss to pass out lemonade and a packet of scampi fries.
That may not be entirely true – women are allowed in the clubhouse to make the sandwiches and dust the members – but the Royal and Ancient remain steadfastly unbothered about staging one of the world's great annual sporting events at a venue that promotes such a skewed outlook. Because that's what it is, no matter how it's dressed up, although maybe women are quite happy to stay clear of a club where men dress up in such curious clothes.
Next year, the Open is at Muirfield, another men-only set-up. What sort of message does that deliver about a sport in urgent need of reinforcements, according to what Chubby Chandler – the uber-agent – told the BBC on Saturday?
We need more young people to play the game was Chandler's message, and I suppose saying to teenage boys "come and try this game where your mum can't get at you" might carry a certain cachet. Especially if you throw in scampi fries and a bottle of pop, as they no doubt call it at Royal St George's.
The Queen, in case you haven't noticed, what with the speculation over whether Rupert Murdoch will sport his tracksuit at Parliament this week, is a woman and I expect what she does matters to the Sandwich members. She should take her Royals home – that would leave the And Ancient with something to think about. And St George's. Perhaps there is someone who could take the St away as well (the Pope?) to leave them as plain old George's.
Irvine could reflect on a job well done as she waited for Alliss and the chaps to finish up. She doesn't get to front many big events – the BBC keeps her tucked away on the red button – which is odd as she is a more relaxed and natural broadcaster than Gabby Logan. She is articulate and sparky and either knows her sport or has taken care to make sure she's properly briefed, which is not a given for some of her colleagues. As the wind whistled round the studio, Irvine grinned at the "perverse joy" of watching top-class sportsmen perform in such trying circumstances. Tom Watson trudged round the course as if he was waiting for Mrs W to appear on the porch and holler at him to stop being such a silly ol' fool and get inside for grits and coffee.
The problem with golf on TV, especially when such a large field is in action, is that the viewer is hurtled from green to green with the occasional fleeting stop on a fairway. It can create a jumbled narrative with the commentators struggling to thread it all together, a task which is made even more difficult by trying to peer though a rain-spattered, wobbling camera.
Just in case we were not aware that the weather was on the temperamental side, the BBC provided endless super slo-mo shots of feet splashing through puddles, spectators wrestling with umbrellas and small children being blown over the sea to Essex.
These mini-montages were invariably set to the sort of classical-lite British Airways used to pipe through on-board speakers on landing while hostesses beam reassuringly; all's well with the world and everyone's in their rightful place, which is how the chaps at Sandwich like it. A good sport spoilt.
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