This Boy Can – Women’s Access

In this weekly column on Women in Sport, Rob Hartnett dives a little deeper into issues surrounding Women in Sport. We shouldn’t need a column like this but until such time as reality matches rhetoric, let’s throw a few pebbles and see what ripples emerge…

It is sometimes said that in order for Women to gain true parity of esteem in sport it is down to men to make the change.

The past week has seen two votes by all men bodies that indicate the truth of the statement even if the motivation for their decision was as much skewed by public pressure and financial impact than by necessarily doing the right thing.

First up was Muirfield, one of the few remaining Golf Clubs which felt it was OK to restrict membership based on whether you are male or female.

In May 2016 they voted to keep the restriction, failing to gain a required two thirds majority for change.  The guardians of the Open Championship moved swiftly to remove the course from the roster of clubs called upon to host Europe’s premier golf tournament.

The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, for that is the name of the owners of Muirfield took stock and recast their ballots last week producing an 80% majority.

123 men still failed to see why this was important but they were overruled.

“Sports reflect the values of the society in which we live and today men and women have equal rights,” said the CEO of the Ladies European Tour after the vote.  “We believe this should be reflected not only in top level international tournaments but also at club level.”

Next up was the Kasumagiseki Country Club in Japan.  For 88 years the club had said no to Women.  On Monday it’s board voted to lift the restriction.

The pressure from the International Olympic Committee threat to remove the Olympic Games Golf events from the club in 2020 was the key driver behind the change of stance.

What pressure than can be brought to bear on Portmarnock and Royal Dublin Golf Clubs, the only two which restrict on gender in Ireland.

The Amateur Open Championship is due to be held at the former in 2019.  The organisers are the same who run the Open but the rules are slightly different so Portmarnock was awarded the hosting rights.

The tournament is two years away, plenty of time to effect a change of stance if the members of the club are willing.  And if they are not then should we not ask that the tournament is moved to one that is more progressive and equally able to host.  There are no shortage in and around the Dublin Area.  Dun Laoghaire Golf Club hosted the Curtis Cup only last year.

Ireland has a wealth of golfing talent among young women like the Maguire sisters pictured above.  What are we saying to them by saying it’s OK to exclude them from membership of a club not on theor talent but on their gender?

Golf is moving in the right direction and has not collapsed on itself.  Portmarnock needs to do likewise.  If we do nothing to force that change then we are complicit in a story that will paint Ireland in a backwards light when that need not be the case.

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