THE decision by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews to vote in favour of allowing women members for the first time in its 260-year history met with universal approval yesterday.
More than three quarters of the club’s 2,400 members took part in the ballot, with 85 per cent voting for women to become members and also agreeing that a “significant initial number” should be fast-tracked towards membership.
Club secretary Peter Dawson said: “I am very pleased indeed to announce that the membership of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews has voted overwhelmingly in favour of welcoming women members.
“This is a very important and positive day in the history of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. The R&A has served the sport of golf well for 260 years and I am confident that the club will continue to do so in future with the support of all its members, both women and men.”
When the vote was announced in March, Dawson insisted it was not intended to place pressure on the three male-only clubs on the Open Championship rota.
But pressure from sponsors had been mounting, with HSBC’s global head of sponsorship and events Giles Morgan saying in January that: “’The R&A are clear that it’s a very uneasy position for the bank.”
Morgan admitted on Thursday that a no vote would have had “a serious impact on our future investment”.
“Our view was that the Open Championship is the oldest major and it’s anomalous to have any form or hint of segregation, and that was the issue that has happily, by the R&A, been addressed today,” he added.
Muirfield, Royal Troon and Royal St George’s are the three clubs on the 10-strong rota with male-only membership policies, although Troon feels it should not be directly compared to the other two as it shares its facilities with The Ladies Golf Club Troon.
Muirfield, which is owned and run by The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, is reviewing its membership criteria with a report to be completed by March 2015, while Royal St George’s is also “considering its position” as a single-sex club.
The Ryder Cup continued to dominate the agenda at the ISPS Handa Wales Open, even though none of the four European team members competing at Celtic Manor featured high on the leaderboard.
Jamie Donaldson’s one-under-par 70 left him five shots off the lead held by Holland’s Joost Luiten, with Thomas Bjorn level par, Lee Westwood two over and Stephen Gallacher failing to make a single birdie in a disappointing 78.
Danny Willett was Yorkshire’s leading contender after day one, carding 72 with Hararogate’s John Parry one behind and Hull’s Richard Finch coming home with a round of 74.