Sneak Peek: This article will appear in the July 1 issue of Global Golf Post.
On Monday 1 July, the 12 women who have been invited to join Muirfield, alias The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, officially will take up their position as the club’s first female members in the wake of the 2017 decision to change the club’s rules. Or, to put it another way, 275 years after the founding of the Honourable Company.
None of the women members, two of whom are from overseas, has been identified. That much does not come as a surprise and, in any case, is of rather less import than the fact that Catriona Matthew, the woman who was expected to be among the first of the new arrivals, is not in the chosen 12 and has tweeted as much. Initially, this seeming anomaly was let slip by two long-standing members who were rightly of the opinion that golfing fraternity at large would be asking questions.
Matthew, who will be captaining the European side in this year’s Solheim Cup at Gleneagles in September, was given to believe that she would be an early recruit when, in 2017 and at the second time of asking, the men finally voted to take women.
Indeed, the following headline in The Scotsman – “Catriona Matthew: I’d love to be a Muirfield member” – captured her delight at what seemed a very real prospect.
It was in April of ’17, when she was answering questions at a media conference promoting the Solheim Cup, that the conversation turned to whether she had already received a membership invitation. Firstly, she made humorous mention of how the writers must have heard something that she hadn’t. Then she went on to admit, “Living down there, as I do, I’d love to be a member. I’m not sure if professionals should be members, but let’s just say we are exploring the possibilities. There are things in motion.” She also revealed that she had been invited to play on the Open championship links a few weeks later.
You would have to think Muirfield are even now deciding how best they can sort out this latest tangle.
The club remained in touch throughout 2017 – she is practically a neighbour in that she lives down the road at North Berwick – only for things to fall quiet across 2018.
Is it a case of the official who made the initial approach jumping the gun in identifying Matthew as an obvious member? Good, sound sense, though it seemed to make when she is not only the Solheim Cup captain but a former British Amateur and Open champion, he could have overlooked the fact that the club did not take professionals as members. Mind you, since they were already making comprehensive changes to their rules by embracing women, it would surely have been possible to add a few more tweaks.
The obvious solution would be for the club to do as the R&A in accepting professionals as honorary members. Tom Watson, Gary Player and Seve Ballesteros (though not every winner of the Open over the Old Course) come into that category as, indeed, does Dame Laura Davies.
You would have to think Muirfield are even now deciding how best they can sort out this latest tangle. Yet whatever their next move, they can rest assured that Matthew, who has very sensibly said nothing thus far, will handle the situation with all her usual dignity.
For the record, the women, who were announced at the same time as three more male members, were said to have taken part in what was described as the club’s traditional membership process. To explain, individuals who are invited to become members of the club must first be proposed and seconded by existing members and five referees. The club’s membership is then invited to write in support, or otherwise, of those put forward, the assumption being that they will have played golf with them or know them personally,
On this occasion at least, the women’s step to membership was an abbreviated version in that, they, unlike many a would-be male member, were not asked to spend time in a “pool” before advancing to the waiting list.
Those golfers from the East Lothian Ladies Golf Association who played Muirfield on the 12th of April predicted that Muirfield’s new members would be “blown away” by the ladies’ locker-rooms. Alistair Campbell, the Muirfield club captain, might not have put it quite like that but it sounds as if no-one is going to argue with his comments of last week concerning the grand renovations.
“We now have a Clubhouse that matches our world-class golf course.”
With the clubhouse in the background, Tiger Woods and caddie Joe Lacava wait to play an approach to the 18th green at Muirfield during last year’s Open Championship. Photo: Toby Melville, Reuters
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