I was delighted, of course, really I was, to see that Royal Troon had ditched years of tradition and voted to accept women as members. I think I heard the captain on the radio saying that many moons ago it had been the women who’d taken themselves off to set up their own club, so really, for once, it wasn’t the men’s fault after all.
Be that as it may, I have to confess to being a tad disappointed that good sense prevailed because Troon were always my favourite misogynists, way ahead of Muirfield, who are lagging behind in the voting but will be trying again to persuade their more recalcitrant members to let the women in. A choleric friend had a lot of a rant the other day about the hypocrisy of people who were happy to have single sex clubs for women but not for men but, as so often, he missed the point. Muirfield and Troon have elevated themselves beyond being simple members’ clubs and with that status comes a certain responsibility to reflect the way their world is now.
My mate wasn’t impressed. “Huh,” he said. “How many women have ever played in the Open anyway? I’ll tell you. None. None.”
He wasn’t to be persuaded that Troon hadn’t capitulated to the barbarians, so I’ll tell you why I put them top of my list of champion chauvinists. It started with the late Winnie Palmer, wife of Arnold, swashbuckling saviour of the Open who had just won the title for the second year in a row. With Arnie clutching the Claret Jug, Winnie needed to spend a penny (it was 1962) and after a quick committee meeting – it had to be quick – she was permitted to enter the clubhouse, escorted by a policeman. Apocryphal I hear you cry. Don’t be so sure!
Sadly, I arrived too late to witness the moment when the golf correspondent of The Daily Telegraph (then the paper of choice for most golfers) and the editor of Golf Monthly, the longest surviving golf magazine in the world, whirled in through Troon’s revolving front door only to be whirled swiftly out again and directed to a poxy little side entrance. You’ve guessed it; their mistake was that they were women, albeit women who were part of the press contingent invited to play the course. Unaware of the kerfuffle, I arrived and swanned in the main entrance but was swiftly hustled along a corridor to join my colleagues.
Golf Monthly’s editor, a handy golfer, was so incensed that it took her nine holes to hit a decent shot but the DT’s correspondent and I finished first and second. That’s the danger of letting us in I suppose.
Still, my favourite Troon story, also true, is when I rang up to ask about tee times, prices and so on for visitors. A charming Scotsman gave me all the details, then I revealed that it would be a mixed group. “Ah well,” he said, “the ladies can walk round and look decorative.”
I couldn’t believe my luck, I punched the air, thanked him politely, put the phone down and cheered in a very unladylike fashion.
[Above and right, one of my favourite golfing cartoons, by Frank Harris, from Golf World in 1984. Still has the ring of truth!]
To finish, let’s move from Troon to Tenby, where Lydia Hall, who’s now attached to Hensol Golf Academy, Mid-Glamorgan, became the first woman to win the Wales National PGA Championship, the PGA’s oldest tournament. In fact, Hall, who won the ISPS Handa Ladies British Masters on the LET (Ladies European Tour) in 2012, is the first woman to win a PGA national tournament full stop. Many congrats to Boom Boom Shake The Room (Hall’s nickname in her younger days when she hit the ball miles).