Women’s golf in Australia is now venturing down a path from which there should be no turning back.
The landscape of women’s golf in Australia is undergoing an empowering transformation. What has previously been perceived by many as a sport that is largely for men only, exclusive and not for young people, is now blossoming into an inclusive and vibrant outlet for women and girls alike.
When looking back on my career, the journey towards change has not been without its challenges, but it is clear that we are now united on the right path with a collective commitment to equality, empowerment and a deep-seated passion for the game of golf.
In the Strategy for Australian Golf 2022-2025, growing golf among women, kids and families is a key callout. We want more Australians – men, women and children – to play more golf and for those golfers to have great golf experiences. The commitment to inclusivity, empowerment and equality is undeniable and has set the sport down a path that we cannot look back from.
What we are seeing is countless young girls being encouraged and inspired to pick up a golf club and go and play. Last year alone, 3,216 girls took part in My Golf Girls, a huge 183 percent increase in participation numbers year on year. Visit golf clubs across Australia – in the city and the country – and you will see these girls swinging clubs, hitting balls, making putts and new friends as they hopefully start a lifetime in the game. If this wasn’t proof enough that golf for girls is getting bigger, clubs right across the country are now investing in the future of the game with the Australian Golf Foundation’s Junior Girls Scholarship. In the inaugural year of the scholarship, we saw 37 clubs offer 226 girls’ scholarships. In the three years since, we have grown to more than 140 clubs awarding nearly 2,000 scholarships.
Witnessing the growth in next-generation participation is a testament to how far we’ve come. It is exciting to be part of a time when young girls look up to women golfers of today not just as athletes, but as role models.
And they have some wonderful women golfers to try to emulate. Players such as Jan Stephenson, Karrie Webb, Minjee Lee and Hannah Green have excelled on the highest stage – winning majors – and have become synonymous with success, excellence and displaying a classy demeanour no matter the circumstances. Their achievements have not only bolstered the reputation of women’s golf in Australia and worldwide but have also given our next generations someone to look up to and instil a sense of belief that, Yes, it can happen to me as well.
In 2023, we are seeing exciting new talent emerging with Grace Kim winning on the LPGA Tour, Steph Kyriacou featuring on major leaderboards and Gabi Ruffels claiming three titles on the Epson Tour. And in our amateur High-Performance Squads, there’s an eager group of young women looking to take that next step in the coming years.
The narrative of women’s golf in Australia is changing. Of the 1.2 million off-course golfers across the country, 516,000 are women. No longer is the sport defined by gender; it is pushing towards a level playing field defined by inclusivity, athleticism and sheer determination. This shift in perspective has begun to elevate the game to new heights, attracting a broader audience who recognise the power and passion of women golfers. This change is only the beginning.
Whether you are an on-course or off-course golfer, you are a custodian of the game, and it is up to all of us to keep pushing for change. In sport, you learn that it doesn’t matter how many times you fall, it’s about how many times you get back up that counts. It is thanks to the girls of the past who have grown into the women of today – and their unyielding determination and resilience to keep getting back up – that we are here today.
The landscape will continue to evolve and change, however, thanks to their dedication and commitment, one thing remains the same: women and girls will continue to strive for equity, break records, push the boundaries and inspire the generations to come.
Karen Lunn, the chief executive of the WPGA Tour of Australasia, won the 1993 Women’s British Open among 16 professional titles
Getty images: kate mcshane