GULLANE, Scotland – Anticipating a strong line of questioning about the R&A’s stance on the membership debate, chief executive Peter Dawson arrived at the Eve of the Open news conference with prepared notes.
Sure enough, 11 questions posed to Dawson on Wednesday concerned the Open returning to another all-male club. He became perturbed only once – when a reporter asked how excluding women was any different than racism or religious discrimination – but conceded that the issue was becoming “increasingly difficult” to ignore. Already, Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond has announced he will not attend the Open in protest of Muirfield's stance.
After the British Open is completed, Dawson said, the R&A will reexamine the issue, though he didn’t elaborate as to what steps might be taken.
“When things are a bit quieter, after the championship, I’m quite sure we’ll be taking a look at everything to see what kind of sense we can make of it for the future,” he said.
Three clubs in the Open rota have all-male membership policies – Royal Troon, Royal St. George’s and Muirfield – and Dawson said that not returning the Open to one of those courses because of their membership practices would do “great harm” to the championship.
“I don’t think they’re damaging,” Dawson said of the single-sex memberships. “I don’t think in doing that they’re intending to do others down or intending to do others any harm. It’s just a way of life that some of these people like.”