When Tiger Woods (sore elbow willing) and the other world-class golfers tee it up at Scotland's Muirfield for the British Open in three weeks, the political leader of the host country will be elsewhere, protesting the golf club’s all-male membership policy.
"I just think it's indefensible in the 21st century not to have a golf club that's open to all," Alex Salmond, Scotland's first minister, told BBC Scotland Friday about the club, whose official name is the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.
"If Muirfield had the Honourable Company of Women Golfers as well and had a women's company who played the course ... some clubs do that and that's pretty acceptable," Salmond said. "But to have the message that women are not welcome as members, can't be members, can't have playing rights over the course on the same basis as men, seems to send out entirely the wrong message about the future of golf."
A boycott by Salmond, an avid golfer according to several U.K. publications, pits him against the archaic chief executive of the Royal and Ancient, Europe’s governing counterpart to the USGA. Peter Dawson tut-tuts each time anyone dares to suggest that the calendar reads 2013 and not 1913 and that even the green jackets in Augusta held their noses and admitted women to join the formerly all-boys club.
"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," the ever-enlightened Dawson told reporters in April, according to Alistair Tait. "Muirfield has a huge history of the Open championship, this will be the 16th time it has been played there and who are we to say what they should do because they are behaving perfectly legally."
Disregarding the head-in-the-sand nonsense uttered by Dawson, Salmond told Forth News that the R&A should refuse to stage the Open Championship at Muirfield until the powers-that-be changed their membership rules, according to the the Telegraph. Salmond said Muirfield's no-women-need-apply philosophy tainted the event and treated half the population as less than equal members of society.
"The R&A should have had a good think about this and perhaps politely, behind the scenes, suggested to Muirfield the public profile of being a single-sex club would be difficult," the Telegraph quoted Salmond as saying. "I don't think it helps the game to have the suggestion of a bias against women and the greatest tournament on this planet played on arguably the greatest links golf course should have this impression that ladies, women should be second-class citizens."
A political opponent of Salmond called the first minister's objections to Muirfield's policies a "naked grab" for the women's vote. And then it got nasty.
"At least we will all be spared more photographs of [Salmond] sprawled like a beached whale beside the Muirfield greens," said Lord Crawley, er, Jackson Carlaw, deputy Scottish Tory leader, according to the Telegraph.
Muirfield is not the only club in the British Open rotation that denies membership to women. That dubious honor also goes to Royal Troon, Royal St Georges, Sandwich, and the Royal and Ancient, according to the Telegraph.