Women's champion vs 'sexist dinosaur': BBC tees up campaigner Eilidh Barbour as new golf anchor alongside Peter Alliss

Anita Singh
Eilidh Barbour and Peter Alliss are to be colleagues

One is a “sexist dinosaur” who believes that the fight for gender equality in golf has “buggered up the game”.

The other has fronted a campaign to get women into the sport and is a rising star at the BBC. How Peter Alliss and Eilidh Barbour will get on remains to be seen, but they are to be colleagues after Barbour was named as successor to Hazel Irvine as the face of the BBC’s golf coverage.

Irvine is stepping down after 25 years as a golf presenter and eight years as the corporation’s lead anchor for the sport.

This year’s Masters from Augusta will be her last golfing event, although she will remain as the face of snooker and continue to host major events such as the Olympics. She explained that she wanted “to re-align my on-air commitments around the changing needs of my family”.

The clubhouse is full of bloody women. They love going there for nothing

Peter Alliss on Muirfield

She is passing the baton to Barbour, 34, a fellow Scot with whom she has a special link. Aged 14, Barbour wrote to Irvine and asked how she could get into sports broadcasting.

“I remember watching Grandstand when it was massive and it must have been one of the first times Hazel Irvine ever presented it,” Barbour has recalled. “I suddenly thought, ‘Oh, girls can do that job.’”

Hopefully, Alliss will agree. The veteran commentator caused outrage last year when he said the fight for women’s rights in golf had “buggered up the game for a lot of people”.

He insisted that Muirfield, the Scottish club, was right to bar female members and described the controversy as “bull---”. “The clubhouse is full of bloody women. They love going there for nothing,” he said, adding that women should marry members instead of trying to become them.

Alliss asked: “What’s wrong with men-only areas? You have men’s lavatories and ladies’.” He has also referred to women’s equality campaigners as “bra-burning merchants”.

Eilidh Barbour

In 2015, the BBC was forced to apologise for a comment Alliss made during The Open. Zach Johnson was lining up a putt, and when the camera alighted on Johnson’s wife, Kim Barclay, Allis said: “She’s probably thinking, ‘If this goes in I get a new kitchen.’”

Viewers complained in their droves on social media, branding him a sexist. One wrote: “Who said the dinosaurs died out millions of years ago?”

Barbour joins a team that includes Alliss, Ken Brown and Andrew Cotter. She will make her debut at the PGA Championship in May.

She has covered golf for BBC Radio 5 Live and is familiar to sports fans as a reporter on Football Focus, Final Score, the Euro 2016 tournament and FA Cup games. She also fronts the BBC’s coverage of women’s football and women’s rugby.

Hazel Irvine is standing down as the face of the BBC’s golf coverage

She is also a golfer. “I don’t like shopping and other stuff that my mum likes, so golf is our thing that we do together,” she has said.

Welcoming her replacement, Irvine said: “I am delighted that a fellow Scot, Eilidh Barbour, will be given this chance. Eilidh wrote to me when she was a teenager asking for advice about how to get into broadcasting. Happily I wrote back.

“We’ve worked together often since. She is a lovely, unaffected person and an extremely capable broadcasters. Over the last few weeks I have been working with her to help prepare Eilidh for her new role. I’m sure that she will enjoy it as much as I have.”

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