Golf: Catriona Matthew calls on Muirfield to admit women as members
CATRIONA Matthew, Scotland’s leading female golfer, has called on Muirfield, home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, to follow Augusta National’s example by opening its doors to women members.
There was no knee-jerk reaction in Scotland yesterday to Augusta’s decision to end 80 years of exclusion by admitting two female members.
The male-only Royal & Ancient Golf Club issued a brief statement to acknowledge the historic move, which will see Condoleezza Rice, the former US Defence Secretary, and banking executive Darla Moore don the cherished Green Jacket.
However, there was no indication that the St Andrews club would be following suit, despite the fact Augusta’s stance will, inevitably, heap pressure on it as well as the Honourable Company of Golfers ahead of it hosting next year’s Open Championship in East Lothian.
“We read the announcement from Augusta National with great interest and we congratulate Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore on their membership,” said a spokesman for The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.
“The Rules of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews specify a male membership and this policy remains a matter for our members to determine.”
No-one was available for comment at Muirfield, one of three male-only clubs on the Open Championship rota, the others being Royal Troon, which is due to host the world’s oldest major in 2016, and Royal St George’s.
However, Matthew, who lives in North Berwick, said she hopes the Augusta move will eventually lead to barriers coming down at clubs closer to home.
“I think this is great news, particularly at such a prestigious course as Augusta National,” said the 2009 Women’s British Open champion. “It is a nice step to seeing more equality in golf, which is only right in the world we live in today.
“It would be great if Muirfield and other male-only Open venues such as Royal Troon and Royal St George’s followed in Augusta’s footsteps in due course.”
The decision, which comes a decade after activist Martha Burk stepped up pressure on the club to admit women, to which then chairman Hootie Johnson responded that they would not be forced to change its policies “at the point of a bayonet”, has been warmly welcomed in golfing circles.
“I think it is exciting news and very encouraging,” said Shona Malcolm, chief executive of the Ladies Golf Union and also chairman of the Scottish Ladies Golf Association. “It is part of an evolution rather than a revolution. People are waking up to the fact ladies are interested in playing golf. Equality is going full circle.
“However, it is important that we keep a middle ground as we have no issue with single gender clubs, both men and women. How a membership is made up should remain the decision of golf clubs.”
Tim Finchem, the US Tour’s commissioner, added: “The PGA Tour commends Augusta National Golf Club on the news that it has invited Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore to become its first women members.
“At a time when women represent one of the fastest-growing segments in both playing and following the game of golf, this sends a positive and inclusive message for our sport.”
Former Open champion Paul Lawrie said he had been expecting the news, having had wind of it earlier this year.
“I don’t think there is any doubt that it is good news that there are now women members at Augusta,” remarked the Aberdonian. “We will now have to wait and see what the R&A do. I don’t know [if they will] and it has got nothing to do with me.”
Tiger Woods, who knows Rice through their link with Stanford University in California – the former world No 1 went to college there and Rice is now professor of political economy at its Graduate School of Business – also welcomed the move.
“I think the decision by the Augusta National membership is important to golf,” commented Woods. “The club continues to demonstrate its commitment to impacting the game in positive ways. I would like to congratulate both new members, especially my friend Condi Rice.”
Rice, 57, was the national security adviser under former president George W Bush and then became secretary of state in his second term, while Moore, a year older, is vice-president of private investment company Rainwater.
“These accomplished women share our passion for the game of golf and both are well known and respected by our membership. It will be a proud moment when we present Condoleezza and Darla their Green Jackets when the club opens this fall,” said club chairman Billy Payne.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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