LPGA Tour players cheered the Royal and Ancient Golf Club’s decision to finally admit female members, calling it a historic decision and a step in the right direction.
Scotland’s R&A Golf Club of St Andrews on Thursday voted to allow women members for the first time in its 260-year history. The vote passed by a margin of 85 per cent in favour to 15 per cent against.
“I am thrilled the R&A has voted overwhelmingly to allow female members,” said 10-time major winner Annika Sorenstam.
“This is a great day for golf and a historic one for women in golf.”
“It’s great obviously,” added Canadian veteran golfer Lorie Kane. “I guess a long time coming.”
The move comes two years after Augusta National admitted its first two female members and was welcomed by the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA).
“The LPGA is happy to hear that the members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St Andrews have voted to include female members,” said spokesperson Kelly Thesier.
“This decision is certainly a step in the right direction and one that better captures the current diversity and inclusiveness of our great game.”
The PGA of America president Ted Bishop said the move would help grow the game internationally.
“Women have played and will continue to play an integral role in the game of golf. In fact, women represent the biggest growth market in the sport, and every step to make golf more inclusive is good for the game,” Bishop said.
“The PGA of America is thrilled that the R&A is welcoming women into its organisation, and loudly applauds its decision.”
Pressure to allow female members had been mounting from sponsors, with HSBC’s global head of sponsorship Giles Morgan saying in January: “The R&A are clear it’s a very uneasy position for the bank.”
Responding to the vote, Morgan said: “As a partner of the R&A and a long-term international sponsor of golf, we welcome this news with open arms.
“We look forward to continuing this successful partnership at St Andrews in 2015 for what promises to be the start of a new era.”
Indian star Anirban Lahiri birdied three of his last five holes to maintain a tight grip in the weather-disrupted Worldwide Holdings Selangor Masters yesterday.
Lahiri, who is No2 on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, holed a 20- feet birdie putt on the last hole for a three-under-par 68 to emerge as the second round leader on 10-under-par 132.
Tour rookie Cameron Smith of Australia trailed closely by two shots following a 66 while another Indian SSP Chowrasia was a further two shots back in third place after shooting a 70 at the Seri Selangor Golf Club.
An in-form Lahiri was even-par through 13 holes but steadied ship to put himself in prime position to claim his fifth Asian Tour win and second title this year.
“I was overthinking today and had 100 things going on in my mind. But on the seventh hole, we were held up a little bit by the group in front and that gave me the opportunity to clear my head,” said the 27-year-old Lahiri.
“I started talking to my caddie about inane things and when we were ready to play again, it cleared my head. So that’s what I will need to do the next time I overthink on the golf course.”
Ryder Cup wild cards Lee Westwood and Stephen Gallacher experienced differing results but similar emotions after the second round of the ISPS Handa Wales Open at Celtic Manor.
While Gallacher headed home in relaxed mood despite seeing his preparations cut short by missing the halfway cut, Westwood was equally happy that a battling performance ensured he would have two more rounds to get his game into shape for Gleneagles.
Westwood had not played competitively since bowing out of the FedEx Cup Playoffs after the first event, but recovered from an opening 73 with a 69 which featured two crucial birdies in the last four holes.
“I needed a couple more rounds,” Westwood said. “I was not particularly competitive yesterday, it was pretty scratchy, but today was more solid. A few iffy shots but it was nice to finish with two birdies in the last four holes to ensure being here for the weekend and two more competitive rounds.
“I have been working on my game and been in the gym quite a lot, but I’m not quite match fit. I had three weeks off and you lose sharpness.”
Gallacher had also not played competitively since coming agonisingly close to sealing an automatic place before being named as one of Paul McGinley’s three wild cards.
The rust showed as he struggled to an opening 78 on Thursday, and a second round of 70 was not enough to avoid an early exit.
“Yesterday was quite tough,” Gallacher admitted after a round containing two birdies – both on par fives – and one bogey. “It was tough to get going and get my head around it but today was a lot better. I was maybe trying a wee bit too hard yesterday and still thinking about next week.
“Today I got into my routines better and stuck to that. Nothing could get into my head apart from that. It was back to normal and if I holed a few putts I would have shot four or five under. It was good to shoot one under from a personal point of view.
“I feel good, I’m physically and mentally good so I am really looking forward to next week.”
Team-mate Thomas Bjorn, who played alongside Gallacher, added a 69 to his opening 71 to lie two under par, with Jamie Donaldson carding an impressive 67 to finish five-under, four behind halfway leader Shane Lowry.
Lowry carded a flawless 65 to claim a one-shot lead over Nicolas Colsaerts and Joost Luiten, with former champion Thongchai Jaidee and Italy’s Edoardo Molinari another shot back.