We decided not to use this piece last week because we didn’t want to overload our reader and then on Wednesday, an email arrived announcing that there was going to be a bit of  a proclamation in East Lothian the next day.  “Well,” Patricia said to me, ” they’re not going to all this trouble, planning for satellite trucks, wifi access, refreshments and so on and asking reporters not to bother players on the course (Thursday is visitors’ day),  just to say nothing’s changed.”

How wrong could we be!  The change needed a two thirds majority and they nearly made it:  64 per cent to 36.  The Open is now going elsewhere for the foreseeable future after the R and A ruled out venues with no women members (Troon’ll soon be off the rota too presumably).  Also on hold are our congratulations to Henry Fairweather, the captain and all the members for taking the leap into the 21st century. 

Oil and water, cats and dogs, foxes and chickens, the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, aka Muirfield, and women.  There are some things that simply don’t mix and were never meant to be together.  But, halt!  Let me stop you right there.  What was that last one again?

Ah, yes, Muirfield.  A mere 272 years old, a gentlemen’s golf club on one of the premier pieces of golfingscape in the world.  And women.  Not allowed to darken the door of this venerable institution – right?  Well, no. Wrong – or, at least not completely right.  Let me tell you a bit about The Madill Trophy.

Our version of the Claret Jug

Our version of the Claret Jug

It was 1993 and I was recovering from back surgery and wondering when I’d be able to play golf again.  The Open in 1992 had been played at Muirfield and it was at that time my sister, Patricia, met the new Secretary of the Honourable Company, Group Captain John Prideaux, otherwise known as Groupie.  Patricia recalled that first early morning meeting with the succinct, “Every woman should be charmed before breakfast.”

An early match. with PC Brown photographer supreme and John Prideaux, former Secretary HCEG and co-founder of the Madill Trophy match

An early match. with PC Brown photographer supreme (thanks for your photos) and John Prideaux, former Secretary HCEG and co-founder of the Madill Trophy match

Groupie extended a warm invitation to me to contact him when I felt able to play again and to bring three friends with me for a bit of a match.  Alas, three feet of snow put a brake on proceedings in the 1993 match but we had a wonderful morning in the clubhouse with our hosts regaling us with the marvellous history of the club and the priceless artifacts therein.  Despite not a single shot being hit the fun, laughter and general bonhomie we shared prompted us to agree to arrange a match for early 1994.  My team were all tour players and schedules were hectic and global.  Couple that with the small matter of Muirfield’s 250 year celebrations and it proved impossible to find a date, so ‘94 proved a non-starter.

The inaugural match for The Madill Trophy took place in 1995 and, with the exception of another snow intervention in 2013, has been played every year since.  We began with four players a side playing a singles match followed by lunch in the local pub.  Over the years we grew to eight a side with 36 holes played – one foursomes series and one singles – with lunch still in the pub.  We now enjoy 36 holes of foursomes and are wined and dined in the clubhouse.  Modesty forbids me to give the overall match score – suffice to say “the lasses” have a sizeable lead!

Stuart McEwen, secretary of HCEG, feels the pain of handing the trophy to winning 2016 Captain, Jane Connachan

Stuart McEwen, secretary of HCEG, feels the pain of handing the trophy to winning 2016 Captain, Jane Connachan

When I was writing this, the club was having a postal vote on the proposal to admit women as members.  I had no doubt whatsoever as to the outcome and was astounded and disappointed to learn that I’d got it completely wrong.  Not all dinosaurs are extinct after all and golf in general is not well served by their continued existence.

The lesson seems to be that one woman’s progress is another man’s sticking point.