Women Need Not Apply at RA

By Associated PressMarch 21, 2003, 5:00 pm
LONDON -- Vivien Saunders would love to become the first woman member of the Royal & Ancient golf club. She knows it's not going to happen.
 
``No, it would just be so hopeless,'' the former women's British Open champion said. ``No one would ever bother. You'd never get a man to propose and second you. And then another 20 people have to be supporters.''
 
The R&A, a private club of 2,400 male members based in St. Andrews, Scotland, is the world governing body of golf outside the United States and Mexico.
 
Founded in 1754, it has never had a female member.
 
The R&A is a bastion of tradition, located at the `home of golf.' Members watch the action on the first tee and 18th green of the `Old Course'' links while sipping gin and tonics from their leather chairs in the clubhouse.
 
While Augusta National Golf Club's all-male membership has sparked widespread debate in the United States and led to threatened protests at the Masters, the R&A wonders what all the fuss is about.
 
``It's hardly life-threatening, is it?'' R&A secretary Peter Dawson said in an interview. ``It is a game, after all. People play it and have fun. Men's and women's golf coexists extremely well.''
 
Saunders doesn't buy that logic, accusing the R&A of being an ``old boys club.''
 
``Well, if it's not life-threatening, then why not let us in?'' she said. ``There's nothing in the rules that says you can't have a camel carrying your clubs when you go out and play, but it wouldn't be very welcome.''
 
Saunders, who won the 1977 women's British Open, called the organization ``undemocratic, elitist, discriminatory and secretive.''
 
``The R&A purports to govern women's golf without allowing women to belong to it,'' she said.
 
As golf's governing body, the R&A doesn't receive any funding from the British government. Its committee structure and membership are secret, and the only way to join is by invitation. Candidates must be proposed and seconded by existing members.
 
Dawson doesn't have much sympathy for Martha Burk, the head of the National Council of Women's Organizations who has waged a high-profile campaign against Augusta's all-male membership. Burk is fighting to lead a protest outside the club during the Masters, which starts April 10.
 
``I am not going to comment on the situation at Augusta National, that is entirely a matter for them,'' Dawson said. ``But members of clubs do have the right to associate freely. I understand there is nothing against the law about that and I as I see it, there's nothing wrong with it.''
 
Dawson said he's received only two letters on the membership issue in his four years in the job.
 
``There is actually no particular pressure,'' he said. ``This is not to be complacent, but there's no particular pressure from inside of golf about this, but the media clearly have it on their agenda.''
 
Dawson says 99 percent of the 3,000 golf clubs in Britain have male and female members.
 
``Equally, we don't have a problem if people want to exercise their right of association and just have single-sex clubs,'' he said. ``We don't see why all clubs have to be the same.''
 
Glenda Jackson, the actress and member of Parliament, called the R&A's membership policy ``gender apartheid.''
 
``It's pathetic isn't it?'' the two-time Academy Award winner said in an interview. ``I think they're very misguided. It's taken a long time to achieve equality in other areas, I have no doubt that equality will one day be achieved in this area.''
 
Changing the status quo won't be easy.
 
In early March, Oxford University's only all-female college, St. Hilda's, voted to keep men out -- by one vote. Various court cases in Britain have both upheld and disagreed with the requirement of a man to wear a tie to work.
 
On Feb. 3, Labor Party parliamentarian Parmjit Dhanda introduced a bill proposing to outlaw sexual discrimination in private clubs with more than 25 members. That would include the R&A.
 
``There is a loophole for clubs to be able to discriminate against women,'' Dhanda told the House of Commons. ``It is ridiculous that this still goes on.''
 
But Dhanda's bill -- backed by the government -- failed to pass, blocked by two opposition Conservative Party legislators. Dhanda said he hoped the proposed bill could be revived and reintroduced.
 
``There can be no justification for treating women as second-class citizens,'' Minister for Women Patricia Hewitt said. ``Such practices are out of date.''
 
Seven years ago, Judy Bell had a chance to be the first female member of the R&A when she was elected as the first female president of the U.S. Golf Association.
 
Unlike previous USGA presidents, she wasn't invited to become a member. Bell, who served for two years, said she felt no strong desire to join the R&A.
 
``How can you say women would be better off if I had been a member of the R&A?'' she said in a recent interview with The Times of London. ``What's it going to benefit? Matter of fact, if I joined tomorrow, I can't imagine I would be as effective as when I worked with the R&A as president of the USGA.''
 
Dawson said that the three all-male clubs will continue to host the British Open. Of the nine clubs that stage the British Open, three are public courses, three are mixed and three are men-only clubs.
 
Last year, the British Open was held at Muirfield, Scotland. This year, it's at Royal St. George in Sandwich, southern England. Both are all-male clubs.
 
``We don't see the Open championship being used for social engineering. We don't see that as valid,'' Dawson said. ``We have no problem with women-only clubs, or men-only clubs or mixed clubs. Therefore, we don't actually think there's a problem in that sense.''
 
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
 

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.