Open door for women to qualify, says Royal and Ancient

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The Independent Online

Goodness knows what Old Tom Morris would have made of it, but the Royal and Ancient's revelation that from next year women will be allowed to try to qualify for the Open Championship sent a shudder through the sport that must have been felt by its first superstar.

Goodness knows what Old Tom Morris would have made of it, but the Royal and Ancient's revelation that from next year women will be allowed to try to qualify for the Open Championship sent a shudder through the sport that must have been felt by its first superstar.

After 145 years of shameless belligerency, no longer will the Open entrance forms stipulate "men only". Saying that the decision had been made "in principle, but not detail", Peter Dawson, the R&A's chief executive, pointed out that it would not be as simple as removing any mention of gender, as the question of eligibility has still to be decided.

As women play off forward tees, the criteria will probably be stricter, meaning that only a small percentage can take their chance.

Still, the news will be viewed as a historic moment in what is regarded as the last bastion of all things male, though the R&A were desperate not to introduce it with a huge fanfare.

"It's new ground in sport as a whole," Dawson said. "The only Olympic sport where the two sexes compete together is equestrianism. But I can't say I have met any resistance to it."

Indeed, he is likely to find the opposite from the 15-year-old Michelle Wie, who could qualify for this year's Open at the John Deere Classic the week before. The race is on.

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