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R&A admits women

SHERRYLYN CLARKE, [email protected]

R&A admits women

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ST ANDREWS – The Royal and Ancient (R&A) Golf Club at St Andrews is no longer just for men.

The spiritual “Home of Golf” became the latest club to end years of male-only exclusivity today when its members voted overwhelmingly in favour of inviting women to join. The vote was effective immediately.

“I can confirm that The Royal & Ancient Golf of St Andrews is now a mixed membership club,” R&A secretary Peter Dawson said in a brief statement he read just outside the clubhouse at the Old Course.

Dawson said more than three-quarters of the club’s 2 500 members worldwide voted, with 85 per cent in favour. It was the first time in the club’s 260-year history that members were allowed to vote by proxy at the annual business meeting.

The result was far more predictable than Scotland voting for independence on the same day, especially when the Royal & Ancient approved voting by mail, and comments earlier this year by Dawson of early indications of support.

Even so, it was hailed as an important step by golf organisations, public officials, sponsors and even a prominent golfer.

“I am thrilled the R&A has voted overwhelmingly to allow female members. This is a great day for golf and a historic one for women in golf,” Annika Sorenstam tweeted.

The members also voted to fast-track a “significant” number of women to join in the next few months. The R&A did not say how many women would be invited, though previous reports indicated it could be as many as 15. The club previously said the first women members would likely have made a “significant contribution” to golf.

“This is a very important and positive day in the history of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club,” Dawson said.

“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.”

Augusta National, home of the Masters, decided two years ago to invite women to join. 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.