So many women who love the game of golf felt the sting when the World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony was staged without Laura Davies Monday at St. Andrews in Scotland.
This wasn’t just about one woman missing out on her big day at the home of golf.
This was about a lot of women seeing that the game is still run by men who aren’t as committed to diversity and inclusivity as they profess to be. That’s what Davies’ empty chair screamed during the induction ceremony.
Yes, women have made a lot of meaningful progress in the game, but somebody ought to put Davies’ empty seat in a display case in the Hall of Fame because it tells the story about women’s still ongoing struggle to find their place in the sport.
Beth Daniel, Patty Sheehan, Karrie Webb and Meg Mallon were among Hall of Famers offended that the induction took place without Davies.
If you care about the women’s game, the empty seat is impossible to ignore or dismiss, whether anyone actually bothered to leave a seat out for Davies or not.
If this had been the year Colin Montgomerie was inducted, do you think the Hall of Fame would have guaranteed his arrival even if he were playing the U.S. Senior Open the night before?
Yes, I know, there are a lot of you reading this who think the airlines are to blame for Davies not being there because of flight delays. Or the weather’s to blame. Or that Davies is somehow to blame for choosing to play the U.S. Women’s Open, or for declining a very late offer of a private jet in Edinburgh once she was already racing time after a four-hour flight delay out of Philadelphia. Or that she’s to blame for insisting she wanted her luggage before agreeing to jump on a private jet to St. Andrews.
This isn’t about what happened in Edinburgh. It’s about how the World Golf Hall of Fame made what happened in Edinburgh such a fiasco.
Davies’ induction never should have come down to the Hall of Fame trying to rescue Davies when she was up against the clock after landing in Edinburgh. This never should have come down to whether she could make a connection there or whether her luggage would make it there with her.
This is about World Golf Hall of Fame officials failing to foresee the problem and prevent it even after they were warned 10 months ago by a pair of highly respected female Hall of Famers that this was fairly likely to happen.
Hall of Famers Daniel and Webb separately contacted a World Golf Hall of Fame official back in September to lay out exactly why this empty-seat scenario was possible.
When it was announced the Hall of Fame induction would be staged in St. Andrews, they both looked at the LPGA schedule and saw that the ceremony was planned the day after the U.S. Women’s Open was scheduled to end in Lancaster, Pa.
“We both individually called the powers that be at the World Golf Hall of Fame and expressed our concern,” Daniel told GolfChannel.com. “We saw that the timing would make it virtually impossible for Laura to fly commercially and get there on time.”
Daniel and Webb also knew that if Davies made the cut in Lancaster, she had zero chance of making the Hall of Fame dinner on Sunday night.
“That’s a big part of the inductees’ weekend,” Daniel said.
Daniel said a World Golf Hall of Fame official she preferred not to name made pledges to address the commercial travel issues Davies would face.
“They assured both of us that they would get Laura there,” Daniel said. “They also assured us that they would make arrangements so any of her mates on tour, who were in the U.S. Women’s Open and having a hard time getting to the induction ceremony, would also get there.”
Webb told GolfChannel.com she heard the same pledges.
“We were both assured she would be fully accommodated,” Webb said.
So, yes, the Hall of Fame might have done everything it could Monday to try to accommodate Davies, but what about the 290 or so days leading up to the induction? What about all the time between when Daniel and Webb warned them and the moment Davies stepped off that plane in Edinburgh?
When a request for comment about Davies’ plight was made Tuesday to a World Golf Hall of Fame staff member, GolfChannel.com was directed to the statement the Hall released on Monday.
“Laura's absence from the Hall of Fame induction ceremony is unfortunate,” the statement said. “Laura is a competitor, and we expected her to play well into the weekend at the U.S. Women's Open, which she did. As soon as her last putt dropped Sunday, the World Golf Hall of Fame and others onsite made every effort to get Laura to St. Andrews.”
There are conspiracy theorists who think Davies did not actually want to make it on time, that she sabotaged herself because she has a fear of speaking to large gatherings.
Total rubbish again.
Yes, after Davies made the cut Friday at the U.S. Women’s Open, she told reporters she isn’t comfortable giving speeches in formal settings. She even said she has issues with dyslexia.
“They were going to make me write a speech, but that would be a fiasco if I tried to read it,” Davies said.
But Davies also told us she had already mapped out talking points and would be totally prepared to ad lib her speech. While Davies acknowledged she would be racing the clock Sunday, she sounded genuinely honored to be headed to St. Andrews for the induction.
“I was absolutely delighted,” Davies said while still in Lancaster about being voted into the Hall of Fame. “It’s one of the highlights of my career, without a doubt.”
And when Davies did finally make it to the Hall of Fame reception after the induction ceremony ended, she was marched in front of the gathering there and gave a speech. She did so without suffering a nervous breakdown.
For whatever reason, there seems to be an effort to make it appear Davies didn’t really want to be there. You might even have heard folks wonder why Davies couldn’t make it to St. Andrews on time, but LPGA commissioner Mike Whan and USGA executive director Mike Davis were both able to make it. That’s because Whan and Davis were both in Scotland on Sunday morning. They both left Lancaster long before the final round.
There are also questions about why Davies, at 51, even bothered going to the U.S Women’s Open. Well, she’s a past champion. She won the premier event in women’s golf in 1987 at Plainfield Country Club in New Jersey. Plus, she’s trying to make the European Solheim Cup team, and there’s no better place to impress captain Carin Koch than making a good showing at the U.S. Women’s Open.
Davies took the high road answering questions after she finally arrived in St. Andrews.
“It was just unfortunate the flight messed up,” she told Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte. “Obviously, a different day would have been easier for me. It’s difficult to schedule at St. Andrews.
“I felt bad letting all those people down who traveled to be there. I was disappointed. I’m sure they were, too.”
The sad thing here is that nobody has supported the World Golf Hall of Fame more than the women.
When the PGA Tour moved the induction ceremony at its facility in St. Augustine to the week of The Players Championship, the hope was that it would lure more of the men who were playing that week. It failed miserably. Barely a handfull of the pros playing at the TPC Sawgrass bothered driving 25 miles south to the World Golf Hall of Fame to see the ceremony.
The women? They always turned out in droves. When Hall of Famers in attendance at the ceremonies in St. Augustine were introduced at the start of the program, it looked like a women’s club meeting was being called to order. Even the older male Hall of Famers made poor showings.
There were a lot of empty chairs at the ceremonies in St. Augustine because so many men didn’t care to show up. There was one empty chair in the ceremony in St. Andrews, but every woman who cares about golf noticed. That’s because they care deeply about a game they wished cared more about them.