Open organisers are hit by new sexism row that ‘members waved ties in banned woman’s face’

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 17, 2014 11:23

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.

Image from the Northern Ireland Executive

R&A CEO Peter Dawson

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.

Image by Alan Richardson

Louise Richardson (with former US ambassador to the UK, Louis Susman)

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.”

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 17, 2014 11:23
Write a comment


  1. Fabregas July 17, 13:25

    Louise Richardson misses the point
    If a vote is pending she cannot expect an exception until a rule change is confirmed
    The R&A are slow to reform but it does not deserve exploitative feminism pending the outcome

    Reply to this comment
  2. philmac July 18, 07:56

    Is the R&A a private company? Peter Dawson Chief Executive.
    Where do they get £500,000 to donate to St Andrews?
    If they are a private company why are they allowed to govern an amateur sport and take the profits from the Open etc?
    If they are not do they pay corporation tax and VAT?

    Worth thinking about is it not ?

    Reply to this comment
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