Sometimes a goof is just a goof
Memo to Jean Van de Velde:
You go, girl!
It takes a real man to try to enter a women's golf tournament against the rules. Van de Velde, fortunately for everybody else, I suppose, is that man.
On Thursday, after hacking his way through a 7-over 78 at the Volvo Masters in Spain (that's a men's tournament), Van de Velde declared that he will attempt to enter the 2006 Women's British Open even though he's not, you know ... a woman.
The action would be Van de Velde's way of protesting the recent decision by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club to allow women to attempt to qualify for the men's British Open. Even though Annika Sorenstam already has said she's not interested, and there's really nobody else in the women's pro golf field outside of Michelle Wie who has expressed even a long-term thought of someday playing, a line in the sand trap must be drawn.
"My whole point is, where do we draw the line?" Van de Velde asked. I don't want to speak for anybody else, but for me that line lies at exactly the point that the Frenchman said he would "wear a kilt and shave my legs," if that's what it takes. There are some sacrifices none of us should really be forced to make, or -- especially -- to see.
This is probably the juncture in the conversation at which somebody inserts a cheap shot about Van de Velde choking away the 1999 British at Carnoustie with a triple-bogey on the final hole. If that makes you feel better, knock yourself out.
But wait: Is there a larger point to be made here? Could it be that Van de Velde is willing to play the role of a clown in order to establish the groundwork for a much broader and more important conversation about the separation of the men's and women's golf tours and the spirit of the competition?
In a word: nope. Sometimes a goof is just a goof.
The problem for Van de Velde here is a pretty simple one: The R&A specifically modified its policy this year to allow all qualified golfers to attempt to reach the British Open, regardless of gender. Meanwhile, the Ladies' Golf Union, which oversees the Women's British Open, specifically modified its policy this year to exclude men.
And in golf, as Wie could tell you after the Michael Bamberger incident, rules are meant to be followed.
Really, the LGU's policy had more to do with keeping out players who had sex-change operations to become females than anything else. But its rule is very clear: A player "must be of the female gender." Even with shaved legs and a kilt, Van de Velde doesn't make the cut.
It'd be interesting to see what a championship like the Women's British would do if someone like Tiger Woods said he wanted to drop by and play. Woods might well dominate, but he'd also be killer at the gate -- money, money, money, money, money. Of course, Tiger wouldn't even consider something so preposterous and unsporting -- and that's the point.
Van de Velde, at the same tournament, is something remarkably less appealing, just a sourpuss trying to make a feeble point. More to the issue of the competition itself, it's still widely understood that for someone like Sorenstam or Wie to enter an otherwise all-male field in a tournament, she is going to have to play "up" to the level of that field. For a male golfer of international stature -- and Van de Velde is one -- there's just no way to make that argument the other way around.
But there I go again, taking Jean Van de Velde seriously. Time to set this one aside. If the man shows up at Royal Lytham in August with the kilt flowing, we'll talk again.
Mark Kreidler is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee and a regular contributor to ESPN.com. Reach him at email@example.com.