It does not look like a trilateral agreement. No peace agreements have been reached. No territorial disputes resolved. But this week at Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort in Northern Ireland marks a kind of gathering. The first tri-sanctioned event in the Northern Hemisphere, the ISPS Handa World Invitational, brings together men and women from the European Tour, LPGA Tour and Ladies European Tour in a two-in-one event beginning on Thursday. It’s a concept first performed at the ISPS Handa Vic Open in Australia – two tournaments held on the same course at the same time for equal prize money. And to steal another line from the locals, it turns up to be one whale at a time.
“It’s great to play with the men here,” said Olivia Cowan, a LET player from Germany. “It’s great to see them practice and just chat, because we don’t see them that often. I played the Vic Open a couple of times and it’s pretty much the same format, so I think it’s just cool to mix. I think it’s good for fans too. Obviously you can see the men and you can see the women at the same time. That’s really good. ”
By “really good”, Cowan means the format gives fans a near-and-personal understanding of how men’s and women’s professional games match. It’s one thing to go to PGA Tour or European Tour events and then later go to an LPGA Tour or LET event. And of course, many fans watch the men on TV for a few hours and then turn over to women’s coverage. But it’s a whole other thing to stand on a tee and watch a group of European Tour players hit their drives and ten minutes later watch a mix of LPGA Tour and LET players attack the same hole. Not only does the fan change perspective, the best women in the game always earn a new follower.
“I think it’s good for women’s golf,” Cowan said. “Because I naturally think we play with the men, it will push women’s golf. I think that’s a good thing. ”
Distance comparison will be unavoidable. They always are. But many fans (and more than a few of the European Tour competitors) will be surprised when Angel Yin takes a rip with his driver. Always known as one of the longest hitters in women’s games, Yin will no doubt do something by showing his length.
But she also appreciates what this event means.
“It’s spectacular to see what they do for the game of golf and how they cultivate it,” Yin said. “Having an event with the men and women in the same place is quite special. And the same purse, straight purse, it’s like tennis. It’s really cool to watch, and it’s special to watch, because we women have obviously been fighting for something close to similar pay, not equal pay, but just trying to sniff out what men are doing. I want us to deserve it. And I feel like we deserve the same spotlight because we can offer a lot. We just have not had the opportunity to show everyone. And when people finally get to see us in the same spotlight, I think they will really enjoy seeing us and enjoying our games. ”
“It’s cool for women and men to play together on the same course, and then with a fantastic course here,” said Atthaya Thitikul, a three-time winner at LET, including this season’s Tipsport Czech Ladies Open.
Thitikul arrived in Northern Ireland straight from fifth place in the Amundi Evian Championship and immediately made a joke about the weather. “It’s good for now,” she said with a laugh.
But everyone is excited about the event and the venue.
“I’ve never been to Northern Ireland,” said Yin. “I’m excited. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Ireland, how beautiful it is. ‘Game of Thrones’ took a lot of scenes from here. It’s very ‘with nature’, a very, very special place and very beautiful, so I’m excited to experience it. ”
Seconds later, Yin made one of the most Angel shots of the year. “Yeah, I’ve never seen ‘Game of Thrones,'” she said. “I just wanted to throw it in there.”