How Muirfield – the last bastion of bigotry – landed the Women’s Open

How Muirfield – the last bastion of bigotry – landed the Women’s Open

How Muirfield - the last bastion of bigotry - landed the Women's Open - National Club Golfer

How Muirfield – the last bastion of bigotry – landed the Women’s Open – National Club Golfer

In June 2016, Elon Musk caused quite a stir on planet Earth by claiming that SpaceX would put humans on Mars by 2022. Open in Muirfield during the same period.

Except that while mankind continues to look up to the stars and wonders, Martin Slumbers has somehow pulled off the latter feat, and since the best women in the world are finally getting a chance to compete on what many consider the game’s best links It is worth chronicling the East Lothians club’s remarkable metamorphosis, if only to refute the theory that everything in golf necessarily takes a long time.

Six years ago, on May 19th, the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers voted to maintain their male-only membership policy. While the majority of members accepted the committee’s desire for change, the necessary two-thirds fell short.

And so, poor Henry Fairweather, the enlightened sea captain who had spearheaded the campaign for inclusion, after 272 years of single-sex existence was forced to face the television cameras at the gates and proclaim that this woman-free zone is not for turning around.

From his office in St Andrews, the R&A’s recently installed chief executive knew he had to act quickly and decisively. Golf was at a crossroads, and the headlines were chilling.

“Yes, you could say that was an interesting and difficult time,” Slumbers told Telegraph Sport on Tuesday. The Brighton-born former banker was only eight months in the role and although the Royal and Ancient – the club from which the board eventually formed – had itself only allowed women to join 18 months earlier, it went against the vision it had he sells his board.

While his predecessor, Peter Dawson, had defended Muirfield’s right to be the standard bearer of gender inequality – “single sex clubs are perfectly legal and in our view harm no one,” Dawson said at the 2013 Open – and refused R&A allegations to consider, Slumbers saw things differently.

Within two hours of the red-faced Fairweather revealing the bad news, the R&A released a statement declaring that “in the future we will not be hosting the Open in a venue that does not accept women as members”. Muirfield was out of the squad. Sixteen times it had hosted the British major, but never again unless reformed. Ballsy barely began to describe Slumbers’ move.

“It was difficult because while I had my view on equality and that it was central to our mission of promoting growth in the sport, it wasn’t our job to tell every golf club what to do,” said he. “But I think our statement sharply focused the debate and allowed Muirfield to understand exactly where the R&A stood. They had clarity from us and that was important.

“We were in the process of merging with the Ladies Golf Union and it was a binary decision made with the knowledge of the Honorable Company’s captain at the time.”

How Muirfield - the last bastion of bigotry - ended up at the Women's Open - GETTY IMAGES

How Muirfield – the last bastion of bigotry – ended up at the Women’s Open – GETTY IMAGES

Slumbers admits they are “in coordination with the club,” and by next March — the earliest date the antiquated constitution would allow a re-vote — the yes vote was more than 80 percent in favour.

“I make no secret how pleased I was as this is a wonderful course with so much history and as a golf fan it would have been a great shame to lose it as a platform,” he said from Muirfield. “But when I started, one of the things that I really pushed forward with my leadership team was a five-year strategy that has equality at its core.

“I was very clear about that. The game is very close to my heart and I truly believe it should be the most involved sport in the world and it should be a game for the people. So it was very consistent with what I believed in.”

Muirfield has been reinstated into the herd and now this is a Muirfield hardly recognizable for the place that American magazine Golf Digest once described as “possibly the rudest club in the world”.

Then it was the pitch that refused to play for newly crowned 1999 US Open champion Payne Stewart, which prompted Tom Watson to leave the grounds a few hours after winning the 1980 Open, not allowing King Edward VIII a round when he it was the Low Duke of Windsor.

And when a Muirfield official was asked what would happen if the Queen played herself, he replied: “We would go down to the gate and pledge our loyalty to her – but she wouldn’t come in.”

At the time, it actually seemed pleased at its bigotry. It is apocryphal that there was a Muirfield sign that read “No Dogs, No Ladies”, but there was a “No Ladies” notice that took pride of place on the clubhouse door at tournaments. Women could play as visitors, but the truth was that Muirfield was to women’s golf what Athens was to the Spartans.

How Muirfield - the last bastion of bigotry - landed the Women's Open - HeartScotNews

How Muirfield – the last bastion of bigotry – landed the Women’s Open – HeartScotNews

“Let’s be honest, no one ever thought of hosting a Women’s Open there – no one,” said Colin Montgomerie last week. “But there they will be and they will love it.”

Slumber agrees. The 62-year-old points out that Muirfield has 20 female members, with five more to come. The women have been accelerated to ensure there is a healthy, meaningful quorum. The majority is at this championship and contributes to making it “a special experience” for the participants

“Of course the players are excited – it’s the AIG Women’s Open. But the excitement seems to have run high. They’ll be on the first tee and say, ‘Right, we actually have a chance to play a major at Muirfield’ and I’m sure they’ll put on a show the week that the English women won the Euros to highlight how awesome the women are game is.

“I played in the Pro-Am this morning with Atthaya Thitikul who is 19 and sixth in the world after coming our way. She won one of our tournaments when she was 14 and won a pro tournament a few weeks later. how good is she She played the first nine in 30 strokes today. Magical. There is a special atmosphere here. The club is very excited about this event and sees it as an opportunity to showcase its connections. Nobody forgets history, but history is history.

“You know, there’s a perception about golf being played by middle-aged white males, and in part that perception is true because they’re the most dominant group of golfers.

“But I’ve always felt that in this game, which is about values, we make a difference and if we can get better gender and racial diversity to change perceptions of too, it will work with those values changing game to one for the people and the community. This week is another step in that direction.”

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