(The April 4 story corrects to make clear it was the first mixed gender full tournament, rather than event. Adds clarifying paragraph at end.)
(Reuters) - Dutchman Daan Huizing made nine birdies to take the lead in the first round of the Jordan Mixed Open, the first professional tournament with men and women competing against each other for the same prize, on Thursday.
Huizing shot an eight-under 64 in Aqaba to lead England’s Meghan MacLaren, a Ladies European Tour winner, and her compatriot Jack Senior by one stroke.
Forty professionals and one amateur player each from the Challenge Tour, the over-50s Tour and the Ladies European Tour are in the field, competing for a prize fund of around $400,000.
“Today was pretty complete and I was shaping the ball nicely, both ways, which is something I’ve worked on very hard over the winter,” Huizing told reporters.
“I made some good putts and mentally I was in good shape as well, sticking to my process, so there are a lot of good signs and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
MacLaren, who sparked debate in January over the disparity in pay between men’s and women’s events, was happy to finish among the leaders after setting the early clubhouse target.
“If I’m going to write about it and talk about it all the time, then I better back it up with my golf,” MacLaren, the only woman to finish in the top 10, said. “If I’m up there it means the girls can take advantage.
“I’m delighted to do it at this tournament because hopefully it will send a message. But any time you shoot seven under in any tournament you’re not going to be too far off the lead.”
The course was designed by Australian Greg Norman who was world number one for over 300 weeks in the 1980s and 1990s.
“To construct a format in which women and men compete together over the same course is an impressive feat,” Norman 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.”
The Challenge Tour players are playing from tees making up a 7,152-yard course, the seniors 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.”
Although the Jordan tournament is the first, official mixed gender tournament, men and women have competed against each other previously, most notably at the Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge, a single-day event which ran from 1992-2013.
Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond and Christian Radnedge