Catriona Matthew, who has played as a visitor at Muirfield on sundry occasions, last year declared that she had no wish to play there again “until they drag themselves into the 21st century.” Yet today, this past Ricoh Women’s British Open champion admitted that she would be delighted to be considered for membership.
“I’m playing over there in a few weeks’ time so we’ll see what happens,” she said.
Matthew was speaking at Gleneagles the day after the dates – 13-15 September – were announced for the 2019 Solheim Cup over the same PGA Centenary Course where the Ryder Cup was held in 2014.
The player’s comment about never wanting to revisit the Open Championship links was made in the wake of the members’ 2016 decision not to admit women members – a decision which had the R&A promptly announcing that the club was being removed from the Open rota.
In March of this year, a second vote furnished a well-received result. The club was duly reinstated on the Open rota but, welcome though the pro-women news was overall, there was some criticism of how the women’s arrival at Muirfield would be managed. Where, at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, they had invited a selection from the start, the Muirfield plan, which was at the insistence of the members, was that a woman should sit on the same waiting list as a would-be male member. At a guess, the members’ approach was one of, “If they want equality they can have it.”
The said waiting list is six to seven years, though the club captain, Henry Fairweather, thought that the first woman might be accepted in two to three years.
Matthew does not anticipate anything happening any sooner. However, she has been given to believe that “a fair few” women members will be signed on at one time rather than arriving individually.
All this will almost certainly catch the eye of the membership at Royal Troon. Ken Arthur, a former captain of Troon, wanted the R&A way for his club when they were debating the “woman question” ahead of last year’s Open. His personal view was that they should introduce “a critical mass” of women rather than the odd one or two because anything less was unlikely to make for a good experience.
Troon voted in favour of women members but that was as far as it got.
As yet, there are none and there are none on the waiting list in that the waiting list is closed.
Stephen Anthony, the club secretary, confirmed that position Wednesday whilst adding that he had so far fielded five enquiries from women. “I told them how the process worked,” said Anthony. Basically, a current member who feels that there is a woman he would like to propose would get the appropriate form from the club and sign it himself before finding someone prepared to second the candidate.
Anthony added that there is a committee meeting coming up shortly at which membership matters would be discussed “as they usually are.”
Muirfield, in making this early connection with Matthew, would seem to be taking advantage of their good fortune in having so outstanding a player living on their doorstep. Not only has the 47-year-old Scot just been announced as a VisitScotland ambassador but it is well nigh certain that she will be captaining the European Solheim Cup side when the 2019 match is played at Gleneagles.
On top of all that, she would be someone who would revel in playing alongside the members. Indeed, she even now admits to having been invited to play in the club’s member/guest day in September.
Though the R&A opened the door for women to try and qualify for the Open after Michelle Wie, then 14, was only one shot away from making the cut in the men’s Sony Open in 2004, a woman has yet to take advantage of that opportunity.
Matthew, who must surely be asked to become a member of the R&A before too long, said that she has never had any desire to go down that route. “I don’t see the point in it – the men are longer and stronger; they play a different game.”
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