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Scotland’s Renown Country Club to Vote to Allow Women Members

pga_g_andrews1x_288The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland, has asked its membership to consider admitting women members for the first time, with a vote scheduled for September. To allow women members would be historic.

“We have been considering this and it’s been on our radar for quite some time,” said Peter Dawson, who serves as secretary of the club as well as the chief executive of the R&A — a separate business entity that now runs the Open and administers the rules.

Although the club itself no longer administers the rules outside of the United States and Mexico nor runs the Open Championship, its close association with both and its proximity to the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland — viewed as the spiritual home of golf — has prompted the move.

“As society changes, as sport changes, as golf changes, it’s something the R&A needs to do and we’re trying to be as forward-looking as we can today,” Dawson said.

Dawson made clear this will not necessarily affect the playing of the Open Championship at all-male clubs. Last year, his organization came under scrutiny because the Open was played at all-male Muirfield in Scotland.

He also stressed that members are being encouraged to support the measure but that it will still require a vote.

“It’s an exciting day for the club,” Dawson said. “There’s been quite a bit of internal discussion as to how this will work. It is a matter for the members to determine — and I stress that this is a members matter — and we’ll see what happens in September.”

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews was established in 1754, but upon its 250th anniversary celebration in 2004 formed a separate company called the R&A to run the Open Championship (among other tournaments), administer the rules of the game, and other duties.

The R&A is not a club, but a business that employees women.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that the Royal & Ancient clubhouse sits behind the first tee and 18th green of the Old Course, perhaps the most famous course in the world. But it does not own nor run the operations of the course. The St. Andrews Links Trust runs the seven town courses, including the Old Course, and all are open to the public.

Dawson joined the club as secretary in 1999 and kept the role when he was named CEO of the separate R&A in 2004.

“In 2004, we split the external duties into a corporate structure, the R&A,” Dawson said. “The connection between the two is that the committees (at the R&A) are populated by members of the club.

“The media and others have always refused to recognize the distinction and describe us as a single organization, a single-sex organization.”

Dawson said Augusta National’s announcement in late 2012 to admit its first women members and corporate sponsorship had little or no bearing on this decision.

“This has to do with our perceived governance role in the game and the right thing to do,” Dawson said.

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