Not to say that the decision to enter the modern age was unanimous. The 85 per cent in favour showed that there still was the odd crusty old fool determined that the stagnant status quo should remain. It was not worth thinking of the consequences had these “No” numpties prevailed. Golf is in a perilous state, with courses closing, equipment sales plummeting and participation levels down. The fall-out in terms of perception could have proved calamitous.
Because that is all we are talking about here – perception. Nothing much changed when women were admitted as equals to the clubhouse. Women have been allowed to play on that historic Old Course links for hundreds of years. Indeed, Mary Queen of Scots had a round the day after her husband, Lord Darnley, had died in highly suspicious circumstances. Well, it was probably murder to get a tee-time on the Old Course even back in 1567.
Of course, there are a percentage of clubs which are still male-only and the problem is these are usually the oldest clubs and thus boast the most cherished layouts. Muirfield, Troon and Sandwich do not have any women members but they do have the Open every decade. For now.
When the Royal and Ancient became a mixed-sex club the statement went out to all the “Open” courses that the spotlight is very much on their membership policies. If they wish to keep staging the oldest, most venerable competition then they too must change. And so they shall, eventually. Golf will rejoin the Olympics in 2016 and the R&A have been and will continue to be heavily involved and, because of that, the inclusion of women in the Royal and Ancient simply had to happen. But let us not go overboard.
Basically, this will mean a number of privileged females joining a privileged club that the man or woman on the street would have no hope of ever being part. It is not quite the Pankhursts storming Westminster. But it is a start.
Who knows what the golfing landscape will look like when McIlroy eventually hangs up his spikes and who knows how many majors the Northern Irishman will have accumulated by then. His seventh season as a professional made most things seem possible for this extraordinary young man, with the bookmakers now rating him more likely to overhaul Jack Nicklaus’s record major mark of 18 than Tiger Woods.
For Woods this was a campaign to forget as a back injury required surgery which caused him to miss the first two majors and then be a non-factor in the other two. In Woods’s absence, Bubba Watson won his second Masters in three years, while at the US Open Martin Kaymer followed up his obliteration of The Players Championship field.
Woods was long gone from Hoylake when McIlroy lifted his first Claret Jug. A fortnight later, McIlroy won his first WGC title at Firestone and the next week won his second USPGA Championship at Valhalla.
“That three-event stretch might be the best anyone has ever played,” Rickie Fowler said. The American was in a fine place to judge having become only the third player – after Nicklaus and Woods – to finish in the top five of all four majors. However, Fowler also became the first to achieve the feat without winning one of those majors.
Fowler was part of the American team at Gleneagles which lost the Ryder Cup for the sixth time in seven matches. With Europe coasting to a 16½-11½ victory, the brunt of the drama on the final day came in the press conference room, when Phil Mickelson provided a withering critique of the Tom Watson captaincy. Golf and the Ryder Cup had not witnessed anything quite like it and still the fall-out occurs, with the “Task Force” – including Woods and Mickelson – set up to sort out the US ongoing mess, preparing for a second meeting in February. But Ted Bishop, the PGA of America president who appointed Watson, has not been involved since being sacked for taking to social media to accuse Ian Poulter of “squealing like a little girl”.
As it was, being a young female was clearly no obstacle in golf. Two of the five major-winners were teenagers (Lexi Thompson at the Kraft Nabisco and Kim Hyo-joo at the Evian Masters), while at 17, Lydia Ko was crowned the LPGA Tour No 1 and at 18, England’s Charley Hull became the youngest to win the order of merit on the Ladies European Tour. However, it was the former girl wonder Michelle Wie who generated the most headlines with her belated breakthrough at the US Women’s Open.