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Muirfield vote to uphold ban on women members

Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington and Paul Lawrie come out against the decision and support the R&A in removing the Scottish club from hosting the British Open.

Golfers play at Muirfield Golf Club on May 19, 2016 in Gullane,Scotland. Muirfield Golf Club has lost the right to host the Open Championship after it failed to rally a majority of male members behind the vote allowing women to join the club as members. W
Jeff J MitchellGetty Images

Rory McIlroy blasted Muirfield Golf Club's continued ban on women members, claiming the vote was a setback for the sport and only served to highlight its "stuffy" image.

Muirfield in Scotland announced a postal vote of members had resulted in a 64% to 36% majority in remaining to be an "all-male" club.

The R&A, as organisers of golf's oldest major, reacted strongly to the vote by stripping Muirfield from again hosting the British Open until such time women are allowed to become members of the club located east of Edinburgh.

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland feels the Muirfield decision highlights "stuffy" image.
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Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland feels the Muirfield decision highlights "stuffy" image.Jan KrugerGetty Images

Stuck in the past

"I think for golf's image, as we are trying to break out of this stuffy, old... we are trying to become more with the times and trying to do things to make golf faster, make golf cooler, make more people included," said former world number one McIlroy.

"Yeah, today wasn't a great day to do that."

McIlroy, who won the Open in 2014 at Royal Liverpool, said the R&A was right to strip Muirfield of its place on the tournament rota.

"Of course they are right. It's taken long enough. Even R&A only started letting women join last year or whatever it was. It's about time that they did.

He added: "It's 2016 and times move on. Women make more than men these days. It is what it is. I think everyone should have the opportunity to join a club if they want to."

Backing the response

Muirfield first held the British Open in 1892 and has now staged 16 championships including the last in 2013 when Phil Mickelson was handed the Claret Jug for a first time in his career.

"My memories of Muirfield aren't very good," added McIlroy who was speaking at the Irish Open where he was in second spot after the day's opening round.

"Bigger picture, it's a great golf course, but there's so many other great golf courses that we play on the Open rota that we're not going to miss one."

Padraig Harrington, who won back-to-back Opens in 2007 at Carnoustie and then a year later at Royal Birkdale, also backs the R&A's response.

"The R&A have a big responsibility, not just to golf but to society because of the position they hold and they have to do these things," he said after posting a four-over-par 76 on day one of the Irish Open at the K Club.

"It's only right that the R&A do remove Muirfield... if you want to hold yourself out there you have to give an equal chance to everybody.

"Muirfield may go ahead and say we want just be a small golf club and mind their own business and that's fine, but minding their own business isn't holding the Open is it?" said Harrington, who has twice competed in Muirfield Opens (2002, 2013).

News the R&A had dropped Muirfield from the 10-strong Open rota sends a strong message to Royal Troon, the club that will host this year's 145th Open, but who have assured the R&A they will be conducting a vote among its all-male members to allow women to join.

If Royal Troon eventually agrees, it will leave Muirfield as the only all-male club in in the modern era to host the British Open.

Paul Lawrie, who won the 1999 Open at Carnoustie, also supported the R&A decision.

"In this day and age I just can't understand why any golf clubs don't allow female members," said Lawrie.

"There is no argument on that. It's their golf club and they can do what they want. I'm not telling them what to do but I am I'm surprised to hear they've (Muirfield) done that."


Peter Allis, some call "the voice behind golf" after his many years broadcasting on it, has caused a bit of a stir on the back of the decision. Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live he said, "

"The women who are there as wives of husbands, they get all the facilities. If somebody wants to join, well you’d better get married to somebody who’s a member.

“I believe clubs were formed years ago by people of like spirit: doctors, lawyers, accountants, bakers, butchers, whatever they like. And they joined in like spirit to talk amongst them and to do whatever. I want to join the WVS [Women’s Voluntary Service] but unless I have a few bits and pieces nipped away on my body I’m not going to be able to get in.”


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