Ko hopes Kasumigaseki men-only rule will change

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SINGAPORE: Olympic silver medallist Lydia Ko said Thursday she hoped the popularity of women’s golf in Japan could help solve a row over female members at the Tokyo 2020 Games host course.

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Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama does not allow women as full members and in January postponed a review of the policy, despite coming under severe pressure from Tokyo’s female governor Yuriko Koike who said she felt “uncomfortable” that women could not become full members.

Lydia Ko of New Zealand attends a news conference ahead of the HSBC Women’s Champions golf tournament at the Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore on Wednesday. AFP PHOTO

The issue also prompted concern from the International Olympics Committee ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Games.

“I think especially in the past generations, golf was known to be a men’s game,” Ko, the world number one, told reporters on the eve of the prestigious HSBC Women’s Champions tournament in Singapore.

“But when I go to Japan, I realize how popular golf, especially women’s golf, is. I think slowly those things hopefully will change in the future,” said the 19-year-old New Zealander, who won silver at the Rio Games last year.

“The amount of talent in the women’s game is immense… Of course in the past there have been men-only member courses, but that has slowly changed… not only in golf but in everything around us.”

Golf at the Tokyo Olympics is to be held at the 18-hole East Course of the country club.

The course came to prominence 60 years ago when it hosted the fifth Canada Cup, the equivalent of the today’s World Cup.

Ko, who has topped the women’s golf chart for 71 weeks, will tee off at the $1.5 million HSBC Champions, sanctioned by the LPGA, on Thursday.

The star-studded field includes world number two Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand and defending champion Jang Ha-Na from South Korea and 19 of the world’s top 20 ranked players.

AFP

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