Male pride has taken a little licking at a certain country club in Scotland, but there are smiles all round, even among the gentry north of England.
The source of this big to-do is the opening of The Royal & Ancient, the venerable golf and country club at St. Andrews, to women after a historic vote that ended 260 years of gentlemen-only membership.
It fell to club secretary Peter Dawson to make the announcement, which many quickly said had the effect of an unprecedented event such as the ongoing vote for Scottish independence.
Not likely but perhaps as significant.
The members voted to fast-track a “significant” number of women to join in the next few months, according to the Associated Press, but the R&A did not say how many would be invited, although previous reports indicated it could be as many as 15.
“This is a very important and positive day in the history of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club,” Dawson said.
Two years ago, Augusta National, home of the Masters, decided to invite women to join.
However, unlike the R&A, Augusta National did not have a written policy that banned women. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore were the first female members.
While the R&A members have access to the clubhouse behind the first tee at the Old Course, they belong to a club, not a golf course. The seven golf courses at St. Andrews are open to the public.
The historic vote was hailed by golf organizations, public officials and sponsors around the world.
“This is positive news for the sport, and I hope we will now see other golf clubs that still have outdated same-sex policies follow suit,” said Helen Grant, Britain’s minister for sport.
“With golf in the next Olympics there is a huge opportunity for the sport to grow and this sends out the right inclusive message that golf is for everyone.”
The Royal & Ancient governs golf everywhere in the world except for the United States and Mexico.
It is separate from The R&A, a business arm created 10 years ago to handle the Rules of Golf, organize the British Open and operate other business affairs.
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