The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews have announced seven honorary women members, including HRH the Princess Royal, and have now admitted seven more “ordinary” members to the club, the first in the club’s 260-year history.
Legends of the women’s game Dame Laura Davies and Annika Sorenstam and the renowned Scottish amateur player Belle Robertson are among those announced by the club yesterday, joining 15 men who are presently honorary members, including Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.
It follows the R&A’s historic vote last September to admit women as members to the club, which acts in subsidiary as the governor of the game of golf in all territories bar the USA and Mexico.
The decision to admit Princess Anne who once described golf as “an ardous way to go for a walk. I prefer to take the dogs out” follows the R&A’s tradition of admitting members of the Royal Family to the club, whether they are golfers or not. The Duke of Edinburgh, Duke of York and Duke of Kent are all current honorary members.
The Princess Royal does have strong connections with sport, as a former Olympian eventer, a member of the International Olympic Committee and the long-time Patron of the Scottish Rugby Union.
The other six new honorary members are all accomplished golfers. Dame Laura Davies, still playing regularly on the professional circuit, is Britain’s most decorated female player, while Sweden’s Sorenstam is arguably the greatest female player of all time.
Two more professionals, American Louise Suggs, a pioneer of the LPGA Tour, and Renee Powell, the first women head pro at a UK golf club and the first female African-American member of the PGA of America are on the list professionals cannot be members of the R&A unless they are given honorary memberships.
Mrs Robertson, from the Dunaverty club in Argyll, was a seven times national champion and played in seven Curtis Cup matches, captaining GB&I on two further occasions. The seventh honorary member is French amateur player and administrator Lally Segard.
Peter Dawson, the secretary of the club, said that seven “ordinary” members had also been recently admitted to the club, but following the normal protocol their names would not be announced to the public. Diane Dunlop-Hebert, past president of Golf Canada, is known to be one of this group.
These are the first of 15 women members whose membership will “accelerated” through the normal process by the R&A’s General Committee over three years from the date of the decision last September, before the admission process reverts to being the same as for men.