Golf: Dawson to step down as R&A chief executive

R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson. Picture: PA
R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson. Picture: PA
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WHILE not exactly on the same scale as David Moyes leaving Manchester United, a high-profile departure in the world of golf was also announced yesterday.

In Peter Dawson’s case, however, he’ll be retiring as chief executive of the R&A and, while Moyes has already left Old Trafford, Dawson’s departure is not until September 2015.

The 63 year old, who succeeded Sir Michael Bonallack in 1999, will be hoping that, by then, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews will have admitted its first women members. As the club secretary, he revealed last month that a vote on that will take place in St Andrews on 18 September – the same date as the Scottish independence referendum.

According to Laura Davies, the R&A vote should be a “done deal”. If not, the former world No 1 fears the Ricoh Women’s British Open may not return to St Andrews, having been held on the Old Course twice in the last seven years.

“I’m assuming they’ve held a vote before the vote, so to speak, because if it doesn’t go through it will be the most ridiculous thing ever,” said Davies, speaking yesterday at Royal Birkdale.

“The thing I’m scared about is that if it doesn’t go through the LGU might then decide not to take the Ricoh Women’s British Open back to St Andrews.

“The players would lose out on a trip there every five or six years. Some young girls might not get the chance to play there at all and that, in my selfish professional opinion, would be more tragic than not letting women members in.”

Dawson, who was born in Aberdeen and played his early golf at now closed Lothianburn in Edinburgh, spent his career in the engineering industry, mainly in the construction machinery sector. For more than 25 years he held senior board positions for a variety of companies and gained considerable overseas commercial experience.

In his time at the R&A, he has played a key role in the Open Championship, making the most of its commercial clout in the business and corporate worlds.

Latterly, he has also had to deal with the growing pressure being heaped on the R&A due to its men-only policy and it continuing to stage the world’s oldest major at some clubs that also do not have women members.

At Muirfield last year, he showed signs of feeling the strain from constant questioning on that thorny issue and, though that vote is still to come, a weight looked to have been lifted on his shoulders when he was able to announce it was actually taking place. “I am delighted to announce that the general committee supported by every other club committee is recommending to the members that we welcome women into the club in future,” he said at the time. “We have been talking about this for a while and it is our governance role within the game that is the driving force behind making this happen. Society is changing, sport is changing, golf is changing and I think it is appropriate for a governing body to take this step.”

Dawson will not be lost to golf, immediately at least, after he retires. He’s the president of the International Golf Federation, having joined it in 1999, and his term will take in golf’s return to the Olympic Games in Brazil in 2016.

Dawson’s successor is likely to come from an external source. The post is being advertised this weekend and the search for a new chief executive will be handled by international firm,

Spencer Stuart.


Dawson on Muirfield’s men-only policy