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Sports

July 18, 2013

R&A to study male-only issue after British Open

GULLANE, Scotland — Pragmatic yet defiant, the head of the Royal & Ancient issued a Hootie Johnson-like salvo in the latest battleground over male-only golf clubs: The British Open will not yield to pressure over three of its venerable clubs refusing to admit female members.

The way Peter Dawson looks at it, to compare this to racial or religious discrimination is “absurd.”

At his customary news conference on the eve of the British Open, the R&A chief executive faced a barrage of questions yesterday about the no-women-allowed membership at Muirfield and two of the other nine venues in the tournament rotation, Troon and Royal St. George’s.

He was prepared for the issue, reading from notes that made it clear he believes single-sex clubs do little harm to the game and have largely been targeted by the media, politicians and interest groups.

“Obviously the whole issue of gender and single-sex clubs has been pretty much beaten to death recently,” Dawson said. “And we do, I assure you, understand that this is divisive. It’s a subject that we’re finding increasingly difficult, to be honest.”

One reporter, touching on the racial discrimination that once pervaded the game, asked Dawson what was the difference between a male-only club and one that allowed only whites to join.

“Oh, goodness me, I think that’s a ridiculous question,” he replied.

“There’s a massive difference between racial discrimination, anti-Semitism, where sectors of society are downtrodden and treated very, very badly indeed. And to compare that with a men’s golf club, I think, is frankly absurd. There’s no comparison whatsoever.”

He later added: “It’s just kind of, for some people, a way of life that they rather like. I don’t think in doing that they’re intending to (bring) others down or intending to do others any harm.”

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