R&A 'thrilled' as Muirfield members embrace hosting of AIG Women's Open

The R&A is heading back to Muirfield in August feeling “thrilled” about how the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers has embraced its first staging of the AIG Women’s Open.

The event will be the first to be hosted at the East Lothian course by the game’s governing body since the 2013 Open won by Phil Mickelson. That event attracted criticism due to the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers being a men-only club at the time.

A move to admit women members failed in 2016, leading Muirfield to be removed from The Open rota following a decision that was branded as “indefensible” by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

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A second poll among members in 2017 produced a ‘yes vote, with the club now having 20 female members as it prepares to step back into the spotlight for the final women’s major of the season on 4-7 August.

“What we’ve already seen and experienced here says it all,” said Karen Myers, The R&A’s Executive Director - Corporate Communications, speaking to the media at the Gullane venue. “The HCEG have embraced this championship in a way that has thrilled us, and they’re feeling the same excitement we’re all feeling.

“They are immensely supportive of hosting the championship and we couldn’t have had more commitment and enthusiasm. Some 100 members have volunteered to help during the week. There’s genuine excitement among the members.”

A bespoke players’ lounge is being constructed for the event in a move that mirrors the introduction of a similar facility in recent years at The Open. However, players and their families will also be welcome in the iconic clubhouse.

“I don’t think so,” replied Myers to being asked if she was worried there might still be some sensitivity due to the men-only issues in the past. “History is the past. We’re all in a position that we’re moving forward. Those who want to dwell on the history will do so.

The AIG Women's Open Trophy sits on the 18th green at Muirfield during a media day for the R&A event on 4-7 August. Picture: Mark Runnacles/R&A/R&A via Getty Images.

“The history of the Honourable Company is really the artifacts and the wonderful history of golf they have here. Everyone who is at the championship will experience nothing but the fantastic commitment the club have to this championship.”

The event will carry a $6.8 million prize fund, a rise of $1m on last year at Carnoustie, where Swede Anna Nordqvist claimed the title and Scottish amateur Louise Duncan thrilled the home fans by finishing in the top 10.

The R&A is planning for a capacity of around 35,000 over the four days, which is a 20 per cent increase from last year. More than half that number has already been sold through advance tickets, while walk-in admission will also be in place.

“Our vision is to create a world-class championship for the world’s best women players,” said Myers. “Those who were at Carnoustie last year will have experienced some of that.

“Bringing the championship to world-renowned venues like Muirfield is reflective of that ambition, and this will be a historic playing of the championship. We’re looking at all areas and how it can be elevated for all of our stakeholders, players, fans and the media.

“We have very supportive partners at AIG. This is their fourth year of sponsorship and they share our ambitions to elevate this championship.”

The course will play to a par 71 and measure around 6,680 yards.

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