Peter Dawson: Women still need not apply to Royal & Ancient

Mike Ehrmann

The antediluvian chief executive of the Royal & Ancient says barring women from membership is okey-dokey with him.

Peter Dawson, chief executive of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, is a dinosaur who believes a woman’s place is definitely not among the members of his 19th-century old-boys club.

Not only will Dawson not allow women to join the R&A, but, not surprisingly, he won’t insist that the club that will stage this year’s Open Championship, Muirfield, drop its anti-women edict as well -- Augusta National be damned.

“I do not deny the step Augusta made was a very positive one. In actuality, will it make much difference to women’s golf in America? I think probably not,” Dawson told reporters in a wide-ranging interview on Tuesday, according to Alistair Tait. “Having a small number of women members [in the R&A], while it would send out a positive message, I don’t actually think it would change very much.”

Muirfield, Tait noted, is one of three Open-hosting clubs, along with Royal St. George's and Royal Troon, that bar women from joining. That’s just fine with Dawson, who said his organization would not willingly enter the 21st century and bow to pressure that has increased since Augusta eliminated its men-only policy last year.

“To think that the R&A might say to a club like Muirfield ‘you are not going to have The Open any more unless you change your policy’ is frankly a bullying position that we would never take,” said Dawson, who's at least consistent, having whistled the same sexist tune for years.

Women are welcome as guests of members, added Dawson, who said there was “nothing wrong” with male-only clubs under current U.K. law “as long as they behave under the Equality Act.”

Dawson had heaps more to say in what The Associated Press termed a 90-minute session. He said Olympic rules may dictate that Rory McIlroy play for Ireland in the 2016 games in Rio, a determination that would alleviate the burden of decision-making from the world’s No. 2 player; golf’s overseers would soon make a joint statement clarifying the regulations that allowed Tiger Woods to continue playing in the Masters after violating the rules; and slammed the PGA of America for opposing the governing bodies’ proposed ban on the anchored putting stroke.

"The PGA of America know my views about this and I'm disappointed at the way that campaign was conducted," Dawson tut-tutted. "It put rule-making onto the negotiating table. People have taken position that they will now have to back off from or maintain. The negotiating table is no place for rule-making to take place. Obviously, the feelings are strong. We shall have to see where it goes."

The last bit was bad news for newly crowned Masters champ Adam Scott, who, according to Bernie McGuire, asked the regulators for a “grandfather” clause if and when they outlaw the way he and several other tour players maneuver their long wands.

“This is about method of stroke, not about whether you use a long putter or not,” said Dawson, who added potential lawsuits would not have any impact on the expected ban. “This is about anchoring and you can’t grandfather a method of stroke as it’s too fundamental.”

About the Tiger Rule, under which the 14-time major champion incurred a two-stroke penalty rather than a disqualification for taking an improper drop and signing an incorrect scorecard during the second round at Augusta, Dawson said clarity would be forthcoming.

“Normally signing for a wrong score results in disqualification but Rule 33-7, and it’s not a new rule, and the strange thing that despite [thick] rule books...and decision books..., something new does happen from time to time,” Dawson said. “That’s why the R & A and the USGA is going to be issuing a detailed statement about this ruling in the very near future, and in going forward.”

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