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To those of you who’ve made it past the headline without dissolving into a puddle of gammon or a rant about how I’m a “woke, left-leaning softie”, thank you and welcome.

Now, let’s have a chat, shall we?

For all their manifest similarities, the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup differ in one particularly noticeable respect.

The involvement of the players’ significant others.

At the Solheim, the stage at the opening ceremony is reserved for the players, the captain and the vice-captains. It’s an understated affair and all the better for it.

Whereas at the Ryder Cup, every office-bearing, blazer-wearing exec gets a seat on the stage – in itself, an ego-massaging farce – as do the wives and girlfriends of both teams.

For reasons unknown, they’re trotted out and paraded like trophies. It calls to mind a bygone age when The Man won the bread and The Little Lady kept house. It’s the kind of scene, one imagines, that prompted Tammy Wynette to write ‘Stand By Your Man’, except this is more ‘sit behind him and wave a little flag’.

As a tradition, it’s nothing new but it has aged terribly.

The partners of Team Europe with the Ryder Cup trophy at The Belfry in 1993 (Pic: Getty Images)


They are treated like cheerleaders. It’s debased, demeaning and a dreadful look for a sport that continues to be dragged down by misplaced accusations of misogyny and chauvinism.

It will look even worse this week coming just days off the back of a spectacular Solheim Cup which was, once again, a scintillating showcase for women’s professional golf. We’re about to go from Carlota Ciganda’s clutch shot-making, Leona Maguire’s assassin-like front-running, and Danielle Kang’s impassioned fist-pumping to something much less empowering and far more abject.

From star attractions to supporting cast in the blink of an eye. Well done, golf.

What makes it even more disappointing is that the opening ceremony of the Ryder Cup is painstakingly choreographed. At some point somebody must have asked why the wives and girlfriends of the players continue to be involved. If they have, they’ve been overruled. And if they haven’t, that’s even worse.

Seriously, ask yourself this: what is the point of it all? In what other major sporting event – never mind the third biggest sporting event on the planet, which the Ryder Cup is reported to be – are partners so visible? Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t recall seeing Lionel Messi’s wife accompany him onto the pitch ahead of last December’s World Cup Final.

Women’s sport is in such a fantastic place right now. The recent football World Cup in Australia was absorbing. Engaging personalities abound, too, amongst them Sha’Carri Richardson, Brittney Griner, Coco Gauff and Alex Morgan. For the first time in a long time, progress feels palpable rather than aspirational.

Trust golf to misread the room.

And by the way, I’ve contributed to the problem. A couple of months ago, in a sit-down with European captain Luke Donald, I used some of the little time I had with him to ask how his wife, Dianne, was looking forward to Ryder Cup week. Like it even matters? I was instantly mortified and, recalling it right now, my toes are curling all over again.

It would be remiss of me to ignore the fact that none of the players’ partners – or rather, none that I can recall – have ever complained about their part in the week. Maybe they’re all quite happy with it. I also know they do excellent work and make meaningful contributions away from the event through The PGA Tour Wives’ Association. But my truck is not with them, nor am I trying to discern offence on their behalf. My issue is with the people behind the scenes who think it’s somehow appropriate in 2023 to parade players’ partners like we’re on some 1980s game show.

On arguably its biggest week of the year, men’s golf could, and should, do so much better.

author headshot

Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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