If Augusta can see sense on women members, why can't the R&A
22:59 GMT, 12 November 2012
Open season: R&A chief executive Peter Dawson will be under fire
Watching grown men defend the indefensible is never a comfortable experience and so it was with Billy Payne, Chairman of Augusta National, at the Masters this year.
One minute he was waxing lyrical about all the initiatives the club were doing to grow ‘the great game of golf.’ The next he was being skewered by a very reasonable question: ’If you’re that keen on growing the game, why haven’t you got any women or junior members’
Let’s say this about Mr Payne. Sure, he squirmed and shifted in his seat and tried to save face, like so many of his predecessors. But here’s the difference. He then went away and made sure he was never put in such a position again. A month later, the first two women members were invited to join the club and Billy Payne had put right the obvious hypocrisy.
Now we come to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. They are already bracing themselves for unfavourable headlines next year. A men-only club taking The Open to another men-only establishment in Muirfield At least over the past week they’ve had a warm-up, as one former Minister of Sport in Colin Moynihan and then present incumbent Hugh Robertson laid into them over their anachronistic stance.
Breakthrough: Augusta National, the world-famous home of the Masters, which was won by Bubba Watson in April, have now admitted women members
Peter Dawson, the R&A’s chief executive, believes this subject to be simply a Press obsession, that most golfers couldn’t give two hoots, and he’s at least partly right. Most golfers couldn’t care less.
But it doesn’t make the R&A’s stance right. There’s no hiding from the fact it is embarrassing for the sport to have a governing body who don’t have any women members, and that will not change until the R&A do. It’s all well and good to allow juniors to attend The Open for free but what message are you sending out if you then take the event to clubs that don’t allow juniors to join
And so next summer, like so many before it, we’ll watch grown men defend the indefensible – and pray silently for the day when the R&A finally comes up with its own Billy Payne.
Another side to the glamour game
‘Rory McIlroy leads a galaxy of stars to Hong Kong’ proclaimed the main headline on the European Tour’s website on Monday. He also leads a cavalcade of dead men walking.
No disrespect to the leading players like Rory at either the Hong Kong Open or the South African Open being played at the same time on another continent this week, but these final full-field events of the regular season are all about the men at the other end of the table.
Men like the English trio, Tommy Fleetwood, Jamie Elson and Richard Bland, all within agonising touching distance of the top 115 who keep their cards for next year but in need of a good last week to seal the deal.
Last year in Hong Kong I sat in a courtesy car with two of the fallen, Nick Dougherty and Oliver Wilson, and the devastation they were feeling at missing out was plain.
No-one would seek to minimise the pressure that McIlroy so adeptly copes with as the world’s No 1. But that is surely a nice kind of pressure. Down among those worried about keeping their jobs, the pressure exerted by a game that is supposed to be all about relaxation must be hell.
Quote of the Week
’When Luke Donald won both money lists last year we thought “how good was that” Now Rory has done it and won a second major as well at the age of 23. The sky really is the limit.’
Eight-time Order of Merit winner Colin Montgomerie eloquently sums the feelings of a sport regarding the extraordinary Rory McIlroy.
Remarkable talent: Life just gets better and better for Rory McIlroy
Challenge Tour goes East
The Middle East has become such a vital part of the regular European Tour over the past two decades it is surprising that no event is staged in the region on the Challenge Tour.
That will all change next year when the Sultanate of Oman joins the party, with the National Bank of Oman Classic becoming the penultimate event, complete with a very respectable 200,000 prize fund.
One nice thing about the tournament is that there will be a reciprocal arrangement with five other Challenge Tour events during the season whereby promising Arab National players, both amateur and professional, will have the opportunity to gain some invaluable experience.
Beljan's Miracle moment
They say the traditional closing event on the US Tour might not take place next year, which would be a great shame. ‘Where Dreams Come True,’ declares the slogan outside the gates at Walt Disney World in Orlando, and so it has proved these past two years at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic.
Last year, Luke Donald complemented the fireworks seen at the Disney theme parks with some of his own, as he won the final event when nothing else would do if he were to clinch the US Tour money list.
Fairytale: Charlie Beljan won the Children's Miracle Network Classic
This time it was 28-year-old American Charlie Beljan making the headlines. On Friday, he was rushed to hospital after suffering a panic attack on the course that left him fearing he might die. Two days later he was in heaven all right, as he claimed his maiden victory to end all thoughts of anxiety for at least the next two years.
‘You never know what’s going to happen in this game or this game of life,’ he said. ‘You just keep plugging away.’
Keep plugging way like this, Charlie, and you might even become that rarest of creatures. A famous Beljan.