For a while, it seemed that that the buildup to this year’s Open Championship was going to be mostly about golf, with Royal Liverpool including members of both genders, thus avoiding the controversy of last year and the male-only membership of Muirfield, the 2013 host site.
That all changed on Monday when GNN linked to this story from the Telegraph in which Louise Richardson, principal of St. Andrews University pointed out that she didn’t receive the traditional honourary membership into the Royal and Ancient Golf Club that goes with the position.
That’s not particularly surprising because the all-male club will vote in September whether to admit female members. What is surprising is that male members would wave their R&A ties at her to emphasize the point that she wasn’t a member, as if she wasn’t aware already.
Use of the clubhouse is important in the role of principal, who often entertains university donors there, so it’s understandable Richardson didn’t want to be humiliated.
Whether it was by design or not, she picked a perfect time to bring the issue up during British Open week when it would get a lot of mileage.
Originally, a spokesman for the R&A declined comment but chief executive Peter Dawson came to the defence of the club by – get this – not dealing with the real issue at all.
Instead, Dawson discussed the fine relationship between the R&A and the university, how it’s been supportive of its fundraising efforts and how it has contributed large sums of money itself.
For that, the R&A is to be commended, but what about the issue at hand? Mr. Dawson’s dance around it would be the envy of any politician, but it still leaves people to draw their own conclusions. It’s time to clear the air.
Was bringing up the R&A’s contributions to and support of St. Andrews a veiled threat for Richardson to clam up lest the school lose it? That may be unfair, but what politicians don’t often get is that their refusal to answer direct questions leads to speculation.
The other question that immediately comes to mind is what will be the attitude of existing male members – and we shouldn’t say all, just the troglodyte portion – towards females should they be accepted into the membership once the September vote takes place?
Is this merely being done to appease the critics, or will women actually be accepted as equals? Those questions have to be asked because nobody has yet to answer them.
Such topics are not new to golf. Even beyond last year’s controversy at Muirfield, there was the whole issue of the all-male membership at Augusta National before Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore were welcomed into the club two years ago.
There was a lot of gushing when that happened, but whether that was tokenism or not will only be determined by how many women follow in Rice’s and Moore’s footsteps up Magnolia Lane in the future.
Such issues tend to reach their boiling points during weeks when golf is the focus not only for existing golfers, but the general population, including potential recruits to the game who see the picture that is being painted by its most high-profile clubs and leaders.
In 2014, more than half the population and the families that may also be lured to the game see an image that alienates females either through blatant discrimination or tokenism and it isn’t fair to say that’s the case at all golf operations.
Yet, it still casts a shadow from the top.
The Tiger Woods obsession continued in the days leading up to the British Open at Royal Liverpool with a couple of headlines that just seem so ridiculous and so repetitive. “Life is different for Tiger than in ’06.” No kidding? The rest of us must have missed all that since he last won at Hoylake. “Tiger says his goal is to win at Hoylake, but is that realistic?” Does Tiger say anything different than his goal is to win a major? As for being realistic, haven’t we been asking that at every major since he last won one? Anything for a Tiger story … Colin Murray of Peninsula Lakes shot his second consecutive 69 at Deer Ridge in Kitchener on Tuesday to win Titleist FootJoy PGA of Ontario Championship by two shots over Nick Kenney of the National Golf Club of Canada. For the final leaderboard, click here … The top three on PGA Tour Canada’s Order of Merit after this week’s Staal Foundation Open earn exemptions into next week’s RBC Canadian Open and Americans Joel Dahmen and Tim Madigan have already locked up the first two spots, leaving a battle among several players for the final exemption. Canadians such as Eugene Wong, Matt Hill, Brad Clapp and Ryan Yip need a win to move into the third position … Chris Hemmerich of Kitchener, Ont., and Mitch Sutton of London, Ont., received Golf Canada national amateur team exemptions into the Thunder Bay event, while sponsor exemptions include Alan McLean of London, Evan DeGrazia, Jamie Depiero, Jeff Hunter, Walter Keating and Robbie Untinen, all from Thunder Bay … Monday qualifiers include Brett Cairns of Courtland, Ont., Andrew Rasmussen of Delta, B.C., Peter Campbell of Baddeck, N.S., and Ryan Terdik of Mount Pleasant, Ont. … The field is expected to include 29 Canadians.