Golf is not an issues-oriented game, unless you count the size of one’s putter or the addition of a few yards to a preserve for the wealthy in, say, Augusta, to be burning societal concerns.
But this past week has been an especially newsworthy time for the game.
Over here, one of the most popular players in the game was a character in a real-life version of the Showtime show, “Billions.” Implicated in a federal insider trading suit, tied to a character called one of the leading sports bettors in the nation, Phil Mickelson had a tough week. A week that made missing the cut at the Players Championship prior to that seem like a Palm Springs vacation.
And even more news from over there, in Scotland, where golf was born and where many an honourable gentlemen is stuck in a time warp where the lads hit rocks with crooked sticks while the lassies tend to the peat fires back home. At Muirfield, the home of 16 British Opens, the last one won by Mickelson in 2013, an old gender battle flared anew.
As was absolutely its prerogative, the all-male membership at Muirfield voted to remain female free (64 percent voted to include women, but the total fell just short of the two-thirds vote needed to change existing policy). And as was their right, the authorities in charge of the British Open declared, very well, we shall not stage our tournament there again until that policy changes.
After all golf central in Scotland is very progressive. St. Andrews voted to admit women members way back in 2014.
The site of this year’s Open, Royal Troon, does not include women members (a separate women’s club does use the facilities). Awarded the tournament in 2012, Troon currently is reviewing its membership policy.
If you want to shoot milk out your nose, be sure to read some of Peter Alliss’ comments about the Muirfield case while enjoying your morning Wheaties.
One excerpt: “I believe clubs were formed years ago by people of like spirit: Doctors, lawyers, accountants, bakers, butchers, whatever they like. And they joined in like spirit to talk amongst them and to do whatever. I want to join the WVS (Women’s Voluntary Service) but unless I have a few bits and pieces nipped away on my body I’m not going to be able to get in.”
A quick aside:
It has been more than 30 years since what is known around the Hummer household as the “Incident at Troon.” Visiting Scotland long ago, I stopped at the clubhouse at Royal Troon on the off chance I could arrange a tee time the next day. Sure enough, they had one. But there was a catch: I was told my wife had to leave the clubhouse and wait outside while I made my arrangements.
Now, a really supportive husband might have stormed out with his wife in a show of solidarity. But then he’d also be shopping for plaid the next day rather than enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Thus, I stayed and faced the music back out in the parking lot.
“If God’s a woman, it will rain tomorrow,” my wife said through clenched teeth.
The sun shined brightly that day and I had what remains the single best day of golf ever. (Having pretty much quit since then, the title may be retired).
All I could tell my wife at the time was, hey, it’s their club. And I really want to play. I didn't want to join the place, just play 18 holes. Not terribly proud of that, but I throw it out there in the interest of full disclosure. And it has made for a great story throughout the years.
So, you fellas at Muirfield have a lovely time, as is your absolute right. It’s your club.
And the 21st Century – which includes a really neat golf tournament and a storied claret jug – will carry on without you until further notice.