April 4 (Reuters) - Men and women are competing against each other in a professional golf tournament for the first time at the Jordan Mixed Open which started on Thursday.
Forty professionals and one amateur player each from the Challenge Tour, the over-50s Tour and the Ladies European Tour are in the field at the Ayla Golf Club in Aqaba, competing for a prize fund of about $400,000.
“To construct a format in which women and men compete together over the same course is an impressive feat,” former world number one Greg Norman, Ayla’s golf course designer, said in a statement.
“There is no doubt that events that showcase golfing talent regardless of gender, such as the Jordan Mixed Open... are the future of the game.”
England’s Meghan MacLaren, a Ladies European Tour winner, and former Ryder Cup player Barry Lane are among players in the field which also includes a Scottish husband and wife, Kylie and Scott Henry.
“It’s great to have such big prize money for the girls and for the Challenge Tour guys as well. It definitely adds to the excitement,” Scott Henry told Sky Sports.
Although the average men’s Challenge Tour player can drive the ball 50 yards further than their Ladies European Tour counterparts, they will compete on a level playing field.
Challenge Tour players will play from tees making up a 7,152-yard course, the seniors will cover 6,601 yards and the women 6,139 yards.
“Our first and primary priority was to engineer a format that could showcase golfing talent regardless of gender,” director of operations Chris White said.
“This not only means taking into consideration carry yardages, both off the tee and throughout the player’s whole bag, but also the positioning of bunkers and hazards.”
MacLaren took the early lead with a seven-under par 65 in the first round. Lane, Spaniards Miguel Angel Martin and Pep Angles and Argentina’s Rafael Gomez were tied for second, two strokes behind. (Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)