Entries are now open for the 61st Berkhamsted Trophy, which will be the world’s first elite-level amateur event where both male and female golfers compete for the same trophy.
The three-day tournament will take place from Thursday 8th to Saturday 10th April 2021. It was previously scheduled for April 2020 but was postponed following the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 61st Berkhamsted Trophy will be a 72-hole scratch stroke play tournament with a cut after 36 holes, with the top 50 competing for the Trophy over 36 holes on the final day.
The tournament is limited to 104 entrants, with a straight ballot on handicaps. This is expected to fall between scratch and +1.
Entries are invited to this ground-breaking event via the Berkhamsted Golf Club website at www.berkhamstedgolfclub.co.uk/2021_entry.
The club expects up to 25% of competitors will be female. Before its postponement earlier this year, a high number of elite female amateurs had already entered.
The 61st Berkhamsted Trophy will deploy a flexible teeing system, after consultation with both The R&A and England Golf to ensure that both sexes compete on an equal footing. It will be eligible for World Amateur Golf Ranking® (WAGR®) points for both men and women.
The Trophy has traditionally been seen as the season-opening 72-hole event for elite male amateurs in the UK, played on Berkhamsted’s highly-regarded natural heathland golf course. In going gender-neutral it is hoped that other elite amateur events will also soon open up their entry lists in a similar way.
The club originally made its landmark decision to allow men and women to compete alongside each other equally in January 2020. At the time, R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers said: “We are supportive of initiatives, such as this by Berkhamsted, which encourage women to compete and play golf at all levels of the game.”
Earlier this month Berkhamsted made a public commitment to the R&A’s Women In Golf Charter. The changes to The 61st Berkhamsted Trophy form part of that commitment, as do pledges to create a new national tournament aimed at elite junior girl golfers, and a concerted effort to attract more female golfers aged 35-54 to the sport.
“We are not afraid to challenge the status quo here” said Howard Craft, Club Manager. “There is much talk in golf about creating change, but the pace at which things actually do change in the sport can be frustratingly slow.
“It is unsustainable, in the long term, for golf to continue to keep men and women apart like it has historically done. We may be the first, but hopefully we won’t be the last major national amateur event to go gender-neutral.”
Nigel Edwards, England Golf Performance Director and Team GB Golf leader in the 2021 Olympics, said: “As the country’s governing body for male and female amateur golfers, at England Golf we are delighted to support Berkhamsted Golf Club’s forward-thinking initiative in making the prestigious Berkhamsted Trophy a mixed-gender event.”
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The Berkhamsted decision has also been welcomed by Elaine Ratcliffe, Captain of the 2021 Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup team. “I applaud Berkhamsted for their forward thinking, and I am delighted to have been asked to help set up the golf to provide an equal test for both men and women during the event” she said.
Esther Strous, County Development Officer of Hertfordshire Golf, said: “It is truly amazing that this massive step forwards is happening at Berkhamsted Golf Club right here in Hertfordshire. What an exciting time for golf. I expect clubs across the world will now take a look at their own elite events, now that Berkhamsted has set this example.”
The club recently engaged Peter McEvoy OBE, the unbeaten Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup Captain and amateur golf icon turned course architect, to consult on its golf course, and it was McEvoy who initially brought the idea to the club.
“I am thrilled that Berkhamsted Golf Club has made this move, and to have such enthusiastic support from The R&A and England Golf is the icing on the cake” said McEvoy. “Berkhamsted is a superb test of golf and particularly course management skills. It will be fascinating to watch men and women compete for the same Trophy on such a magnificent golf course.”
McEvoy is a former Berkhamsted Trophy champion himself, with Tour golf stars including former world #1 Luke Donald, double-Major champion Sandy Lyle and European Tour winners Andy Sullivan, Tom Lewis and Graeme Storm all lifting the historic trophy before finding success among the professional ranks.
Joss Gosling, the 28 year old winner of the 60th Berkhamsted Trophy, held in 2019, will now defend his title in April 2021. He said: “I believe strongly in inclusion and equality throughout our game, and I know that the majority of my fellow male competitors feel the same. As a competitor, I welcome Berkhamsted’s decision. The fact that an event as prestigious as the Berkhamsted Trophy has made this change will go a long way in showing people that golf is a game for everyone.
“I am looking forward to competing, after a year’s delay, against the best female amateur golfers out there. See you all in April!”
22-year old Alice Hewson is one of Berkhamsted Golf Club’s most successful female members. In 2019 she became the first Englishwoman to play a competitive tournament round at Augusta National, in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur, and after turning professional last summer she won the first event she entered on the Ladies European Tour – the Investec South African Women’s Open in March 2020.
Alice said: “I am so proud of my home club for embracing equality. I hope the public will be able to come and watch this year’s Berkhamsted Trophy, to see the very best amateur golfers of both sexes on a fantastic golf course.”
The famously bunker-free Berkhamsted Golf Club is rated by many as being among England’s Top 100 golf courses. It is laid out on common land in Hertfordshire’s largest expanse of natural gorse and heather, with over five miles of bridleways and pathways running throughout the golf course and its huge 560-acre estate, full of natural beauty.
Situated north west of London, close to the western boundary of Hertfordshire, Berkhamsted Golf Club is easily accessible from the A41, five miles west of Hemel Hempstead and just 15 minutes from M1 Junction 8 (St Albans).
To enter the 61st Berkhamsted Trophy, please visit www.berkhamstedgolfclub.co.uk or call the club on +44 (0)1442 865832.