R&A chief Dawson doesn't foresee women trying to qualify for Open

By PA Sport
Published on

Six years after women received the chance to qualify for the British Open, not one has even attempted it. And Royal and Ancient Club Chief Executive Peter Dawson doubts he will see it happen in his lifetime.

"It's certainly gone off the agenda, hasn't it?" said Dawson April 19 at the all-male Royal St. George's Club, where this year's championship takes place on July 14-17. "I don't expect to see a woman trying to qualify in my lifetime, but the opportunity is there."

The entry form was changed in 2005, two years after then-world No. 1 Annika Sorenstam played an event on the PGA Tour and a year after Michelle Wie, a mere 14 at the time, had missed the cut at the Sony Open in Hawaii by a single shot.

But Sorenstam is now retired and for the last four years Wie has not achieved the top-5 finish in one of the women's majors that would allow her to tee off in an Open regional qualifying competition -- even if she wanted to, which currently seems unlikely.

So the “top-5 rule” created by the R&A has not been tested yet.

"Until women have a track record at trying to qualify, we have no idea whether we have pitched it correctly or not,” said Dawson. "But why should golf be any different? We don't see men and women playing tennis against each other, running against each other or rowing against each other."

As for the membership policy at this year's venue, Dawson stated: "Single-sex golf clubs -- men only and women only -- are very few in number and they do tend to be the older clubs.

"It's not as if they've made a conscious decision. They've just carried on as they always have,” he added. "I think it's a matter for them to decide how they operate within the law. We don't use the Open for what I might call social engineering.

"I'm sure that as generations come through, members will take a view on this as the years go by,” he explained. “If it was true that single sex clubs were affecting golf participation, I would take a different view on it, but there are such a small number and in time I'm sure attitudes to this subject will change. I think the media are far more interested in this than people in golf, but I don't want to sound in any way complacent."