Golf comes first for Els

Ernie Els (AFP)
Ernie Els (AFP)

Gullane - Ernie Els has said it is unfortunate that women are barred from becoming members at Muirfield Golf Course, but he insists it is right for players to compete in the British Open there this week.

The exclusive club's male-only membership policy has come under renewed attack in recent weeks as golf's oldest tournament returns to the famed East Lothian links for the first time since 2002.

Since then Augusta National, which hosts the first of the year's four majors, has allowed women members for the first time, and last month Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said he would boycott the Muirfield tournament in protest.

Els though said that it was hard for the players to become too involved in the debate.

"The club's been like this for many years. It's been around for, I would imagine at least 150 years, and they have never thought about changing their policy," said the South African, who is defending the title he won at Royal Lytham last year.

"We play the Open Championship at this wonderful golf course and I'm not going to miss it for the world, whether or not it's got, unfortunately, the policy it has.

"It is what it is. But we go to play The Open Championship and I'll go play it in the Sahara Desert if I have to.

"You can ask the chairperson why that policy is in place. It is what it is and we play where we play."

The chief executive of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club (R&A), Peter Dawson, has already re-iterated their position on taking the Open to clubs like Muirfield, saying courses would not be bullied into changing their policies by the threat of losing the Open.

'We come for the golf course,' he said. 'To think we would not come to a course as wonderful as this (Muirfield) is something we could not countenance. It's like taking the Boat Race to the Humber if you did not like (mayor of London) Boris (Johnson's) policies."

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