Open organisers are hit by new sexism row that ‘members waved ties in banned woman’s face’
The Open Championship has been hit by a row over sexism for the second year running – this time that the organisers’ own golf club prevented the local university’s female president from joining, and then mocked her by waving their ties in her face.
In a bid to control the story, The R&A’s chief executive, Peter Dawson, has issued a statement vehemently denying the allegations.
Some at The R&A, which organises the Open, believe that last year’s event at Muirfield was overshadowed by negative media stories regarding the host club’s policy of not allowing women to be members.
Royal Liverpool Golf Club, host of this year’s event, does allow women to be members. However, in the run-up to the tournament, the New York Times interviewed Louise Richardson, the first ever female president of the University of St Andrews, which is located just 600 yards from the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, the headquarters of The R&A.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club is a men-only establishment, although it will vote on admitting women on the same day of the vote on Scottish independence this September.
The club usually grants honorary membership to presidents of the university, but it has not done so with Richardson, which, she said, has meant that she has to ask male colleagues to take potential university donors out to lunch, if they have requested a meeting at the golf club.
However, her most damning comments were when she said that R&A members have effectively mocked her by waving their ties in her face.
“They think that’s funny,” she said.
Peter Dawson has issued a statement saying: “I don’t know what Louise actually said, and I assume that the article was accurate in reflecting what she said.
“But I do feel that one or two things are not quite as portrayed.
“To be honest, we just don’t recognise those remarks as in any way accurately representing the relationship between the R&A and St Andrews University. We have an excellent relationship.
“We’re very supportive of the university. We’ve been very supportive of its fundraising efforts. In fact, it’s 600th anniversary fundraising just finished, and we contributed £500,000 to it, a not inconsiderable sum in support of St Andrews University.
“Really that’s all I have to say on this.”
Richardson added that she is only invited into the clubhouse about once a month, but refuses to eat there. “Wives that are well-behaved are invited to a lunch, something like that. People have said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll take you to lunch.’ But I’ve said, ‘I’m not eating in the clubhouse until women can enter’,” she said.
She has also responded to Dawson’s comments by saying: “This should not be about any individual and The R&A, it should be about how, in a time when women increasingly are occupying positions of authority and responsibility, these kind of membership practices are untenable.”