R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers weighed in on women’s issues ranging from the upcoming second Muirfield women’s membership vote to the possibilities of shared Open Championship venues and equal prize money during a media conference call Monday.
With Muirfield’s all-male membership voting last year against a proposal to invite women as members, the R&A removed the club from its Open Championship rotation. The results of a second vote are expected to be announced sometime next month, with British media reporting members are expecting passage this time.
Slumbers said the R&A will consider putting Muirfield back into the rotation if the proposal passes.
“I was very pleased with their having a second vote,” Slumbers said. “I think Muirfield is a wonderful golf course. It's a great Open venue.
“We would reconsider and make an announcement very quickly if that comes through positively.”
With the R&A and the Ladies Golf Union announcing a merger last year, the R&A will oversee staging of the Ricoh Women’s British Open beginning this summer.
Slumbers was asked if the R&A would ever consider setting up the men’s and women’s championships on the same golf course, to be played in consecutive weeks, as the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open were at Pinehurst in 2014.
“There’s a huge amount of appeal to doing that,” Slumbers said.
Slumbers said Pinehurst was unique as a resort, but there’s a great challenge in having the same course host over a two-week run, with the time and setup changes creating a “huge imposition” on the host club.
“If we were able to make it work in the future years, I think it would be terrific,” he said. “But it's not without its potentially insurmountable challenges.”
Slumbers was also asked about the possibility of creating equal men’s and women’s purses for the Open championships.
“My views haven't changed from when this came up last year,” he said. “Professional golf is a business. It is a function of the revenues that can be earned from sponsors and the costs of staging and prize money that goes into the equation. You have to be aware of that balance around those two things.”
The Open Championship featured a purse of a little more than $8.5 million last year, the Ricoh Women’s British Open a purse of $3 million.
“I think, directionally, it's very important that the women's purses move up closer to the men's purses, but that my take,” Slumbers said. “It will take time.”