Pressure mounts on R&A to admit women

Warren Little

The R&A says it’s up to affiliates -- like Muirfield -- to rewrite membership rules; Muirfield demurs

Now see what you’ve gone and done, Augusta National? Thanks to your hippie-dippie decision to enter the 21st century and allow women to join the ranks of your formally uber-exclusive man cave, some right-thinking individuals in the U.K. believe the venerable Royal and Ancient and Muirfield, the Scottish host of the 2013 British Open (excuse us, The Open Championship), should follow suit and stop discriminating against half the population.

Poppycock! Muirfield’s kilted guardians of the traditional status quo responded to a gentle nudge from U.K. sports minister Hugh Robertson, who politely suggested on Sunday that possibly, perhaps, maybe, if it’s not too much trouble, the R&A ought not stage the Open on courses that would deny membership to Condoleezza Rice.

“It is increasingly anachronistic not to allow women to be members,” Robertson told the Sunday Times shortly after outgoing British Olympic Association chair Lord Moynihan prodded the R&A to follow the Masters host down the cart path to parity.

“It is remarkable that Augusta has changed, but the Royal and Ancient is still there having not entitled and allowed complete equality of opportunity for women in this country,” Moynihan told BBC Radio 5 last week. "It should be an embedded characteristic of 21st century sport, especially when you see the contribution the athletes make.

"Let's get real and let's get on with the job of providing equality of opportunity across sports, sports administration as well as sporting opportunity.”

Robertson similarly urged the R&A to do the right thing and opined that the all-male Muirfield, which will host the tourney for the 16th time, should follow suit.

“In all honesty, no,” Robertson said about whether the R&A should allow Muirfield and its Neanderthal ilk to stage the U.K.’s national championship. "I think this issue should be addressed."

To which Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield secretary Alastair Brown replied, he was taking his Pro V1 and going home -- or words to that effect.

"It's not our decision where the Open is. It's the decision of the R&A; it's their competition and they ask us,” said Brown, effortlessly passing the buck, which stops at the desk of chief executive Peter Dawson.

"Augusta is a totally different situation. They own their event,” said Brown. "We are fully compliant with the Equality Act and women have played here since 1891. I've given this reply several times and that is our stance."

The R&A, which has not responded to the most recent attacks on its indefensible misogynist position, will continue to withstand opposition from a legion of protestors that includes golf legend Gary Player.

“The fact that it’s male members-only is not something I’m overly concerned about,” the ever-so enlightened Dawson told The Telegraph before last year’s British Open at the restricted Royal St. Georges (home of the erstwhile “No dogs, no women” signage). “I know that’s not as correct as it might be, but I do think that these things are a matter for the members.”

After Augusta dropped its bombshell about allowing women members, the R&A kicked the figurative ball back to Muirfield -- one of three courses (including Royal Troon and Royal St Georges) in the Open rotation that women may not join.

“We read the announcement from Augusta National with great interest and we congratulate Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore on their membership,” the R&A said in a statement in August. “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.”

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