GULLANE, Scotland -- Politics and political correctness were the topic of the day at the British Open, where officials of the Royal and Ancient governing body were slapped around a bit by the media on the issue of playing this year's event at a place where women are not allowed to be members.
Muirfield Golf Club, establishing a membership in 1744, has no female members, although many female guest players. The issue, simlar to the one that the home of the Masters, Augusta National, wrestled with for years until admitting two women last year, was brought to a head when the Scotland First Minister announced that he would boycott the event at Muirfield because of the club's exclusionary policies. Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R & A, took most of the heat durinbg a press conference and sent some of it back.
Asked specifically about the First Minister's stance, Dawson dismissed it as "political posturing."
He said, "I think at the R & A we've been through over 250 years of existence without getting into political comment, and I don't really intend to break that rule here."
Then he broke the rule by firing back at several questions and questioners.
Question: "As you said, single sex clubs are legal, but morally, what's the difference between men only and whites only?"
Dawson: "Oh, goodness me. I think that's a ridiculous question. There's a massive difference between racial discrimination, anti-Semitism where sectors of society are downtrodden and treated very, very badly, indeed. To compare that with a men's golf club is frankly absurd."
Female reporter: "Could you just explain to the ten women in this room why racism is unacceptable and sexism clearly is?"
Dawson: "...You can dress it up to be a lot more, if you want. But on Saturday morning, when the guy gets up and the lady gets up and out of the marital bed, if you like, and goes off and plays golf with his chums and comes back in the afternoon, that's not on any kind of par with racial discrimination or anti-Semitism or any of these things. It's just what people do."