A controversial golf club lambasted for voting against women becoming members is set to welcome some of the world’s best female golfers ahead of the women’s Open.
Muirfield Golf Club initially sought to block female players from joining the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (HCEG) in 2016 before a second ballot a year later saw the motion passed.
It took until 2019 for the first women to have their membership ratified by the club, however the East Lothian course will now host the prestigious tournament for the first time.
Swede Anna Nordqvist is aiming to become the first player since Yani Tseng in 2011 to successfully defend her title, having won at Carnoustie last year.
Zoe Ridgway, championship director at the Royal and Ancient club, said: “We are creating a world class championship, for the world’s best players and as such we need to provide them with the best golf courses in Great Britain and Ireland to compete on.
“Muirfield is certainly one of these and it will be a landmark moment when the women tee off on the famed layout for the first time. That is a moment which we hope becomes historic for golf.”
The HCEG was founded in 1744 and claims to be the world’s oldest recorded golf club which helped set the playing rules of the sport.
Over 120 members of the club voted against the admission of female members during the 2017 vote – though 80% backed the plans.
The club last hosted a major tournament in 2013, when Phil Mickelson was crowned Open winner, only for the result of the 2016 ballot leading Muirfield to be removed from the rota following a decision that was branded as “indefensible” by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
The event will carry a $6.8 million prize pot, a rise of $1m on the previous edition, while bosses are expecting around 35,000 spectators to take in the action when the competition tees off on Thursday.
Stuart McEwen, HCEG secretary, said: “We are delighted to be hosting the AIG Women’s Open this year and look forward to welcoming the world’s finest women golfers to Muirfield.
“As the oldest verifiable club in the world, we are proud of our history and traditions, as well as the role we are playing in the future of the women’s game by hosting this summer’s championship.
“We hope to make an important contribution to a brilliant Championship that will inspire future generations of women golfers of all ages.”
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