One of golf's most storied institutions is welcoming its first female members. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews, Scotland, announced Tuesday that seven women are now honorary members of the club, including Queen Elizabeth's daughter Princess Anne and golfer Annika Sorenstam.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club had been an all-male organization since it was founded 260 years ago. In September, the club held a vote on whether to admit female members. The measure passed overwhelmingly with 85 percent voting in favor. The club has 2,400 members and 75 percent of them participated. The club once governed golf's international rules for more than a century.
Princess Anne, who is also known in the United Kingdom as the Princess Royal, competed in the 1976 Olympics in equestrian and is a current member of the International Olympic Committee. She worked on the organizing committee for the 2012 London Games.
Sorenstam is widely viewed as the best female golfer in history. She won 10 major championships before retiring in 2008 and is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Joining Princess Anne and Sorenstam in the first group of female members are:
- Dame Laura Davies -- During her career as a player, Davies won a total of 79 tournaments. She tallied four major championships, including Women’s British Open in 1986 and the US Women’s Open in 1987. In July 2015, she will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame at a ceremony in St Andrews.
- Renée Powell -- A pioneering figure in golf, Powell played on the LPGA Tour from 1967 to 1980. She was the second African-American player on the tour. In 1979, Powell became the first female head professional at a golf course in the U.K. Her father founded the Clearview Golf Club in East Canton, Ohio, the first course designed and built by an African-American.
- Belle Robertson -- The Scottish amateur golfer won the British Ladies Amateur Championship in 1981. When the Scottish Sport Hall of Fame opened in 2002, she was honored as one of the first 50 members.
- Lally Vagliano Segard -- One of France’s greatest golfers, she won the British Girls’ Championship in 1937 and the British Ladies’ Amateur title in 1950.
- Louise Suggs — In 1947, Suggs won the US Women’s Amateur and won the British Ladies’ Amateur the following year. She is a co-founder and former President of the LPGA and a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
The Royal and Ancient also announced that more women have joined the club as full members, but did not name them.
The move is a social change, not a golf change. The golf courses in St. Andrews — including the historic Old Course right in front of the Royal and Ancient club house — are all public and open to both male and female golfers. Many other golf clubs in the U.K. had already changed their social rules to admit women after a 2010 equality law in Great Britain altered the requirements to remain single-sex.