PETER DAWSON, the chief executive of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, cannot win, it would seem.
No sooner had Dawson announced that the R&A’s 2,400-strong membership will vote on September 18 – Referendum day – to decide whether to admit women members, he was attacked by sections of the left-wing media for failing to issue a decree stating that any single-sex club would in future be excluded from staging the Open Championship.
The “guilty” male-only clubs, Muirfield, Royal Troon and Royal St George’s were quick to respond to the announcement.
Predictably, the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers did not declare a willingness to change. Royal Troon, while stressing that they have no plans to change their membership structure, pointed out that The Ladies Golf Club, Troon – founded in 1882 – pay for the privilege of playing the links and use of all the club’s facilities.
St George’s, meanwhile, issued a statement to the effect that they have been considering their status as a single-sex private members club for some time and when deliberations are concluded, the committee will make a recommendation to the membership.
The fact that the R&A is urging its members to abolish their 260-year-old-male-only policy should be welcomed as a positive step forward, especially as Dawson indicated that there appears to be widespread support for the move, which will require a two-thirds majority.
He also highlighted the necessity to put the needs of the Open high up on the R&A’s list of priorities and the loss of key venues would not seem to be doing that, hence Royal Troon will not be struck off as the venue for the 2016 Championship.
As an aside, Dawson, a first class administrator and a thoroughly decent sort, also revealed that the move to admit women members has been greeted by overwhelming support from within his own household, by his wife and daughter.
The fair-minded and clear-thinking among us welcomed the announcement. Others, many with agendas, in my humble opinion, pronounced themselves far from satisfied.
Some of these same individuals from the media also went on the attack last summer and succeeded in completely overshadowing the Open Championship at Muirfield.
They were assisted in their rants and sense of indignation by the First Minister, Alex Salmond’s decision to boycott golf’s oldest major in protest at Muirfield’s male-only policy.
Yet, this is a man who freely avails himself of the opportunity to play some of the country’s finest golf courses as a courtesy. Is that the whiff of double standards I scent?
Free speech is a right each of us is entitled to and I applaud those with the courage to speak out against what they perceive as injustice. But few of the voices I have heard speak on the issue of single-sex golf clubs have been those of women – other than indignant female journalists from publications such as The Guardian newspaper.
Before I am accused of being an advocate of sex discrimination, let me stress, I am not. Indeed, I am a believer in equality in most walks of life.
But while this is not a case of much ado about nothing, I take the view that the issue of women’s membership of certain golf clubs has been blown out of all proportion and is largely media driven by certain individuals who portray a deep sense of injustice on behalf of others in public, for the benefit of their readers or listeners but who privately couldn’t care less, at least in some instances.
I cannot recall a single female acquaintance expressing strong views on the subject and I have yet to hear any express a wish to seek membership of the R&A, Muifield, Royal Troon or Royal St George’s.
Neither am I aware that there are any female members of the Masonic Order or male members of the Women’s Guild!
Recently, sitting amid the splendour of the R&A clubhouse and more than 200 years of history and tradition following a splendid meal, hosted by a leading committee member, I was given to muse that some traditions are worth preserving.
That comment will cause instant offence among the leftie elements of the press. But do I care? Not a bit of it.
Welcome the ladies by all means, but not necessarily at the expense of all freedom of choice.
STILL on a sporting theme…is there no hope for Leigh Griffiths?
Griffiths is a talented football player – and a complete idiot off the park, it would appear.
The Celtic striker was filmed mocking Hearts Football Club in a pub chant with Hibs fans before the Edinburgh derby.
As a former Hibs player and a fan of the Easter Road club that was perhaps not entirely surprising, given he has history of behaving badly.
Griffiths insisted “it was banter.” I am inclined to the view that it was sheer madness or extreme bravery.
To have done so in a hostelry a mere free-kick’s distance from Tynecastle was taking a chance, to say the least.
I dread to think what would have happened to the 23-year-old had a group of Jambos supporters stumbled on him leading the chants of “Hearts are going bust.”
PICTURE COURTESY OF: Hannah Swithinbank