Paul Edie: Muirfield can learn from Augusta

Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Picture: Getty
Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Picture: Getty
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IT is now almost a year since the very conservative Augusta National Golf Club welcomed its first women members. Augusta, home of the US Masters, infamously wouldn’t allow black members in until 1990. It subsequently took ten years of campaigning to break down the gender barrier.

Augusta is still very exclusive. It has only a few hundred carefully chosen members and the first two women members were Condoleezza Rice, George Bush’s Secretary of State, and Darla Moore, a South Carolina financier.

I am proud of many things we Scots have given the world, ranging from medical and scientific advances, our major contribution to philosophy and the great characters emanating from the minds of our great writers. I am also proud of our sporting traditions which have heavily influenced international sport.

Many Olympic events, from the shot and the triple jump to the hammer, were started in our Highland Games. In Rio in three years’ time, golf will also be added to the number of Olympic sports of Scottish origin.

Though not a player, I have been very proud of the strong and, generally, egalitarian tradition we have enjoyed in golf. The fact that the world’s most famous course, the Old Course at St Andrews, is a public course demonstrates this.

But this egalitarianism has not always been extended to gender. While Mary, Queen of Scots might have enjoyed the odd round 350 years or so ago, many clubs at present do not allow women members.

One of the clubs which still has a ban on women members is The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers who own the great Muirfield course at which players competing, ironically, for The Open Championship teed off this morning.

My late father, a useful player in his time, occasionally played Muirfield and always reckoned that was the best course he had played as it presented the fairest test of golf.

With the Olympics set to have golf as a demonstration sport I, along with many others, believe that it is time for Muirfield to follow Augusta’s lead and admit women as members.

While Bill Shankly joked that football wasn’t a matter of life and death it was “much more important than that”, American liberal statesman Adlai Stevenson said: “Some of us worship in churches, some in synagogues, some on golf courses.”

How about a bit of religious equality in Gullane?

Dementia dogs idea’s barking up right tree

In the five years I was the city council’s lead on health and social care, I was delighted to champion many initiatives to help make the lives of frail and vulnerable people better.

In that time we shamelessly ripped off great ideas from elsewhere such as the introduction of reablement for the first time in Scotland and Local Area Coordination from Australia. I was particularly keen to champion new technology and we introduced a lot of gadgets and gizmos to help support people in their homes for longer. These included switches which cut off the power to cookers after 20 minutes, as a lot of people were ending up in care homes as a result of not remembering to switch off the cooker. We also introduced a GPS device to help schoolchildren, who had difficulty learning to travel by themselves, get that important bit of independence. This device was then trialled with people with low-level dementia.

With a five per cent increase each year in people living beyond 85 years old and with a very high percentage of these people living with long-term conditions, there is a need to make resources allocated for care go further and further. The other side of the demographic coin is that we have fewer young people going into the caring professions to look after this burgeoning frail older population. One estimate is that every school-leaver in Scotland would need to work in care to look after this increasing number of people who need care. All involved in the care sector need to find better and more innovative ways of doing things.

Enter stage left Kasper and Oscar, Alzheimer Scotland’s very own dementia assistance dogs. The brainchild of Glasgow art students, building on the idea of guide dogs, the pair are part of a pilot to see how dogs can help

people with early and low-level dementia. As well as helping to fetch medicines when an alarm prompts them to, they also play a valuable role in fending off social isolation, not least their need to be taken for regular walks.

It’s early days but I, for one, will look forward to seeing how things progress for these dogs and the people with whom they are living.

I’ve hit end of line with phone pests

While writing this column I have been interrupted twice by unwanted phone calls from consumer surveying companies desperately not trying to sell me anything – honest! The silent calls, from sales company computers, I have regularly received I find utterly creepy. I have tried telephone preference but that has been such a failure that I have had to resort to going ex-directory. Still they come!

I welcome Edinburgh West Lib Dem MP Mike Crockart’s campaign against nuisance calls and his efforts to have the regulation of telephone sales beefed up.