The R&A revealed that 85% of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club's 2400 members voted yes on admitting women, meaning it was a much greater landslide than the Scottish Independence vote, which was headed for a 55% no vote majority as of the wee UK hours.
Here is the "Statement from Peter Dawson, Secretary of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club."
I am very pleased indeed to announce that the membership of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews has voted overwhelmingly in favour of welcoming women members.
More than three quarters of the club’s global membership took part in the ballot, with a decisive 85% voting for women to become members.
This vote has immediate effect and I can confirm that The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews is now a mixed membership club.
The membership has also acted to fast-track a significant initial number of women to become members in the coming months.
This is a very important and positive day in the history of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. The R&A has served the sport of golf well for 260 years and I am confident that the club will continue to do so in future with the support of all its members, both women and men.
Karen Crouse included much of the saga's backstory in her NY Times piece and described the scene from St. Andrews:
Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the R&A, revealed the results of a postal balloting of the club’s 2,400 male members, many of whom were on site in matching blue jackets and patterned blue ties. About three-quarters of the members participated in the voting, with 85 percent of them opting to approve women as members.
Owen Gibson’s Guardian story included this from Laura Davies.
Dame Laura Davies, one of the best known names in female golf, said the vote was a major watershed for the women’s game. “I think it is great news – back when I turned pro I would never have imagined that this could ever happen,” she said. “I think it is a huge step forward for the R&A and women’s golf and everyone will be delighted with the result.”
Frank Keogh of the BBC also included this from Davies:
"Times move on and I think all of them probably realise that it's a bit ridiculous in this day and age.
"I spoke to someone from the LGU (Ladies' Golf Union) recently and they said numbers are down in women's golf clubs.
"Maybe the vote will raise awareness and women will start thinking 'Oh, I thought that was a male-orientated sport'.
Ewan Murray files this Guardian commentary, skeptical of some outrage over the issue and ultimately says the corporate community forced the R&A's hand.
A lot of the background noise was soundbite, opportunist stuff. People who would have no interest in promoting women’s golf for 51 weeks of the year suddenly saw merit in joining criticism of the R&A and the chief executive of its corporate wing, Peter Dawson. Other comments were far more significant; HSBC, a key Open sponsor, was soon to admit unease over the R&A’s restrictions.
Kevin Garside in the Independent files an excellent commentary and says we're not quite done yet.
An unsustainable division holds at three clubs on the Open Championship rota. No positive developments are expected immediately in the anachronistic dens of misogyny at Muirfield, Royal St George’s and Royal Troon, but all three will come under increasing pressure to leave the 19th Century behind now.
Peter Dawson and his double breasted walked to a collection of microphones in a Buckingham Palace-friendly, slightly Pink Panther bit of staging, walking from the R&A clubhouse to an area near the first tee, then took a few questions. Here is Golf Channel video of the moment.
Golf Channel’s Karen Stupples reacted to the news, as did Old Tom. Well, his impersonator David Joy did.
Ryan Herrington has a solid roundup of takeaways from the vote, including praise for Chief Inspector Dawson.
The timing of the membership vote and Dawson's retirement, which he announced last April and goes into effect in September 2015, are hardly coincidental. Having overseen the R&A for 16 years, Dawson had guided the organization toward becoming a more progressive operation, helping with the creation in 2004 of "the R&A" as a separate entity from the Royal & Ancient Golf Club to oversee the administrative operation of the Open Championship. Dawson (below) had seen the membership issue as the final significant hurdle in his tenure, hoping to have it be a part of his legacy as well as to have the matter put to rest when his successor takes over.
Cameron Morfit with a nice roundup of reactions, including the most interesting possibility, Louise Richardson, principal of St. Andrews University.
Thursday’s announcement would seem to pave the way for her to join the club, promising a future in which women get equal access to arguably the most famous 18 holes in golf, and centuries-old grudges are put to rest. Club secretary Dawson’s statement went on to say, “The membership has acted to fast-track a significant initial number of women to become members in the coming months.” Presumably we’ll soon know who they are.
And ESPNW also posts a roundup of statements, tweets and other relief from a golf world tired of waiting for this day.