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R&A moves to accept female members

ESPN staff
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Michelle Wie tees off at the 2013 Women's British Open at the Old Course St Andrews - venue for the Open in 2015 © AP
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The Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St Andrews is set to accept women as members for the first time in its 260-year history.

Executives at the historic club, one of the oldest and most influential clubs in the world, have written to its 2,500 members urging them to vote in favour to a change in membership policy in the autumn.

Wilson Sibbet, chairman of the club's general committee, has reportedly written to members saying "now is the time to ask members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club to welcome female members into the club."

The admission of women at the club that set the rules for the game worldwide until 2004 would mark a watershed in the history of the sport.

Pressure has been building on the R&A to allow female members, with former Prime Minister Gordon Brown calling on the club to follow in the footsteps of Augusta National, home of The Masters, after they abandoned their ban on female members in 2012.

Scottish First Minister also made his views on the issue clear by refusing to attend the Open at Muirfield in 2013 after describing its membership policy as "indefensible in the 21st century".

Muirfield is one of three golf clubs on the Open rota, along with Troon and Royal St George's in Kent, that do not allow female members, along with the R&A, whose clubhouse looks out onto the first tee at The Old Course in St Andrews, host of the 2015 Open.

"It is of course for members to decide if they wish to alter the rules of the club to give effect to this change of policy," continued Sibbet's letter, which has been published by the Daily Mail ahead of its distribution to members this week.

"The General Committee sincerely hopes that this rules change will be enthusiastically supported."

The R&A, which organises the British Open, did not deny the letter's authenticity but would not comment further ahead of a planned statement Wednesday.

Among the clubs existing members are three-time Open champion Jack Nicklaus, Sir Sean Connery, and Herbert Kohler, the American owner of the Old Course Hotel.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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