ALEX Salmond today called for gender equality in golf to be enshrined at “all clubs in Scotland” as he teed off with the country’s top women’s players.
It came as new figures showed that almost half of all young players in Scotland are girls and the RICOH Women’s Open is poised to get underway at St Andrews this week.
The First Minister sparked a nationwide debate on sexism in golf when he refused to attend the recent British Open at Muirfield in East Lothian which doesn’t allow women members.
It emerged today that Scottish Open will not be held in future at any clubs which adopt such male-only policies.
The SNP leader played a shot today with two of the sports leading talents – Catriona Matthew and Connie Jaffrey – in a pro-am at St Andrews ahead of this week’s RICOH Women’s British Open at the Old Course.
The famous Royal and Ancient Club at St Andrews does not admit female members and has come under fire over this by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. But Mr Salmond says the course can be enjoyed by “men and women equally” as there are also female clubs based at the course.
Scotland, as the Home of Golf, has a responsibility to nurture talent in both the men’s and women’s game, the SNP leader said.
“We also have a responsibility to promote equality in the game, and that is why we have made clear our preference that all clubs in Scotland adopt a policy that promotes equal access to our wonderful courses,” Mr Salmond said.
“The fantastic links here at St Andrew’s can be enjoyed by both men and women equally, as it is a public links and operated by the St Andrews Links Trust.
“As the Home of Golf we have a responsibility to nurture the game at all levels, and I am delighted at the latest participation rates showing the number of girls playing golf in Scotland is now well above par thanks to our ClubGolf initiative.”
Catriona Matthew is bidding to win the Women’s British Open for a second time after rising to her highest ever world ranking. The First Minister said she and fellow Scot Carly Booth - who qualified for the tournament after a 12-player play-off at Kingsbarns on Monday - were “fantastic ambassadors” for the national game.
The First Minister also praised Connie Jaffrey – the current Scottish Girls’ Champion – and a graduate of the ClubGolf initiative which has introduced a total of more than 260,000 youngsters to the game.
The ClubGolf initiative introduced almost 20,000 girls to the game in 2012. According to ClubGolf, girls now account for almost half of current primary school participants in the innovative development programme.