Open Championship Host Muirfield's Men-Only Policy To Come Under Fire This Week
A storm "is brewing at Muirfield," host of this week's Open Championship, according Steve Douglas of the AP. Muirfield is one of three courses on the Open rotation -- Royal Troon and Royal St. George's are the others -- that have a men-only membership, "which has been criticized as being out-of-touch and damaging to the staid reputation of the sport." The R&A, organizer of the British Open "and also a male-only membership organization," is not for turning, however. Things "could get heated" this week as the world's oldest major returns to Muirfield in east Scotland, where women "are allowed to play and have access to its facilities but can not take up membership." Some prominent politicians will not be attending this year's event "in protest." Scottish First Minister Salmond said, "I just think it's indefensible in the 21st century not to have a golf club that's open to all." Salmond attended the 2011 British Open at Royal St. George's, but said Saturday that he did not realize at the time "that the club had a male-only policy." Two British government members -- Culture, Media & Sport Secretary Maria Miller and Sports Minister Hugh Robertson -- "have also turned down invitations to attend." Robertson: "I would really encourage the R&A, when they next come to allocate the Open, to look at this, simply because of the message that it sends out" (AP, 7/14).
'WEIRD' POLICY: FOX SPORTS reported Defending Open champion Ernie Els has called Muirfield "weird" for its all-male policy. Els: "It's going to be an issue. It is an issue. I'm not a member there. I'm a member at clubs around the world. I would like to believe that most of the clubs we belong to are open. It's weird isn't it?" (FOX SPORTS, 7/14).
BOYS CLUB: In an editorial, the London OBSERVER wrote "Scotland can be proud of the part played by women in its historical struggles to achieve social justice." Every two or three years, though, "Scotland's commitment to equality and fairness diminishes when one of its notorious cadre of sexist golf clubs hosts the Open championship." With a few notable exceptions, golf writers have been acquiescent in this anti-women prejudice, "while no pampered golf professional would ever let a principle get in the way of a pay cheque." And as far as the sponsors are concerned, "ethics and profits simply don't mix." The Scottish government "is proud of the fact that thousands of boys and girls are taking up golf." It is "criminal that they will come to know the sport they love treats women as lesser beings." That many will carry these attitudes into adulthood is more than a crime -- it is "a tragedy" (OBSERVER, 7/13).
RULE BREAKERS: In London, Nick Pitt wrote the roll-call of exclusion "is indeed honourable." Former American golfer Payne Stewart "was refused permission to play a round when he was the US Open champion;" American golfer Davis Love III was told before the 1987 Open Championship that he could play, "but his wife could not accompany him." On the evening of the final round of the 1980 US Open, American golfers Tom Watson and Ben Crenshaw, who had just finished first and third, "and whose adherence to the game's traditions is legendary," were chased off the course by the club secretary, Captain Paddy Hanmer. Accompanied by their wives and friends, "they had been playing a few holes with hickory-shafted clubs and Hanmer vowed to ensure they would be banished from the course forever" (SUNDAY TIMES, 7/14).