The tradition of the principal and vice-chancellor of the University of St Andrews being given a honorary membership of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews was restored last year when Professor Sally Mapstone took office, it can be confirmed.
The tradition was temporarily suspended in 2009 when Professor Louise Richardson became the first female principal of the University. At the time the club did not allow women members.
The club made the decision to begin accepting women members in 2014, before formally accepting the first of them in 2015.
Despite Professor Richardson still being in her post at St Andrews at the time the decision was made, she was not extended an offer of membership and the tradition remained suspended.
In an interview with The New York Times in 2014, Professor Richardson described her frustration with the policy.
“A supporter of the university got in touch and asked if he could possibly have lunch at the R&A today,” she said. “I had to arrange for somebody I know to take him to lunch at the R&A because, of course, I can’t. And I had to arrange for another member of the staff to take his wife to lunch some place in town because, of course, she can’t get into the R&A, either.”
She added, “Here’s St Andrew’s University, ranked third in the UK, we’re an organisation of 10,000 people, we support 9,000 jobs, I run this place very successfully and I’m not allowed in the clubhouse 600 yards from my house?”
“I should say I have occasionally been invited into the clubhouse,” she said. “I think once a month on a Sunday, wives that are well-behaved are invited to a lunch, something like that. People have said ‘Don’t worry, I’ll take you to a lunch.’ But I’ve said, ‘I’m not eating in the clubhouse until women can enter.’”
Professor Richardson is now principal and vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, where she is also the first woman to hold her post.
The University of Oxford declined to comment on the story.
A spokesperson for the University of St Andrews said, “This is very old news, Professor Mapstone was offered and accepted honorary membership of the R&A over a year ago! The University and the R&A are working extremely closely together on a range of fronts, and the R&A is a major and very welcome supporter of a substantial number of scholarships for St Andrews students, as well as our Saints Sport golf programmes.”