BERKHAMSTED Golf Club has confirmed the postponement of the 61st Berkhamsted Trophy because of the coronavirus outbreak.
But the Hertfordshire heatthland club – famous for having no bunkers – plans to stage the ground-breaking event for sexual equality later this year.
The 72-hole tournament was set to be the world’s first national-level elite amateur golf event open to both males and females, from April 2-4.
Following the club’s announcement in January that golfers from both sexes would be able to compete equally, this year’s event had already attracted an all-time record entry.
Among the 142 competitors who have entered the 2020 tournament are 18 leading women golfers – led by last week’s Sunningdale Foursomes winner Lily-May Humphries, from Essex, Cheshire’s England international Isobel Wardle, and Emily Toy, the reigning Women’s Amateur Champion. from Cornwall.
All three are members of the Curtis Cup squad for the biennial match, between Great Britain and Ireland and the USA, which is due to be played at Conwy GC, in North Wales, from June 12-14.
The Hertfordshire club is looking to re-schedule the 61st Berkhamsted Trophy in the autumn 2020. Further announcements will follow. Entrants need to do nothing at this stage.
Berkhamsted manager Howard Craft said: “Naturally we would rather not be doing this, but it is clearly unwise to attempt to stage a golf tournament of this kind at the moment.
“The health of our competitors, members and staff is the overwhelming priority right now.
“Our decision in January to invite leading female amateur golfers to enter the tournament has been emphatically validated by the record-breaking entry levels, and also by the high quality of the golfers who want to compete – of both sexes.
“What’s been achieved so far is testament both to the appeal of the Berkhamsted Trophy, and also to the growing desire to stage truly gender-neutral tournaments across the golfing world.
“We are proud to be among those who are leading the way in this area, and we are still excited to see what happens when the best female golfers take on the best male golfers, later this year, all competing for the same trophy.”
Great Britain & Ireland Curtis Cup captain Elaine Ratcliffe said: “Berkhamsted has clearly taken the right decision to postpone for now, but more importantly, I think it’s brilliant the event received such enthusiastic backing from both male and female competitors.
“It’s another step in the right direction not just for golf, but for sport in general,” said Ratcliffe, the former Ladies European Tour player, who played in the 1996 Curtis Cup at Killarney, and also for GB&I at the 1998 World Amateur Team Championship for the Espirito Trophy.
“They are all athletes at the end of the day, and we are gradually removing those dividing lines between men’s and women’s sport.”
•Berkhamsted’s golf course remains open to its members after the Government’s Chief Scientific Officer Sir Patrick Vallance told the Commons Health Committee this week that playing golf was relatively safe during the restrictions on social isolation advised after the COVID-19 outbreak continued to spread across the UK this week.