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14 March 2017, 13:02
Muirfield has been restored to the list of Open Championship venues after its members voted to admit women into their ranks at the second time of asking.
The East Lothian course was immediately removed from the rota after a first vote narrowly failed to achieve the two-thirds majority required in May last year.
However, Henry Fairweather, the captain of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers which owns and runs Muirfield, announced on Tuesday that the rule change had been passed by 498 votes to 123 after a second ballot, with 80.2 per cent of members in favour.
And that decision was swiftly followed by one from the R&A which means Muirfield, which last hosted the Open in 2013, will again be eligible to stage the sport's oldest major championship.
Speaking outside the clubhouse, Fairweather said: ''This is a significant decision for a club which was founded in 1744 and retains many of the values and aspirations of its founding members.
''We look forward to welcoming women as members who will enjoy, and benefit from, the great traditions and friendly spirit of this remarkable club''.
The HCEG added in a statement: ''The current waiting list for membership at Muirfield suggests that new candidates for membership, women and men, can expect to wait two to three years, or longer, to become a member of the club.''
R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers welcomed the decision in a statement which read: ''Muirfield has a long and important history of hosting The Open and with today's announcement that will continue.
''It is extremely important for us in staging one of the world's great sporting events that women can become members at all of our host clubs.
''Muirfield is a truly outstanding Open venue and we very much look forward to taking the Championship back there in future.''
The earliest Muirfield could stage the Open is 2022.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon welcomed the decision, writing on Twitter: ''Well done, Muirfield - decision to admit women members emphatic & the right one. Look forward to seeing you host the Open again in future.''
And a statement from Ivan Khodabakhsh, the chief executive of the Ladies European Tour, read: ''The Ladies European Tour is extremely pleased to hear that the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers has voted to include female members and will begin to restore the reputation of the club following the disappointing ballot result last May.
''Sports reflect the values of the society in which we live and today men and women have equal rights. We believe this should be reflected not only in top level international tournaments but also at club level.''
UK Sports Minister Tracey Crouch also welcomed the news, adding: ''The decision has been a long time coming and it was right that the R&A made clear to Muirfield that the Open Championship would only be hosted at clubs that allow women members.
''Golf has the potential to attract a more diverse audience to the game and this decision sends out an important message. It is vital that clubs and sports organisations play their part in promoting equality.''
Scotland - and East Lothian in particular - will also benefit financially from Muirfield hosting the Open, with Holyrood's minister for sport Aileen Campbell adding: ''This change is extremely positive for equality in Scotland but it's also one that will be beneficial to Muirfield itself now that the R&A has confirmed the course will be reinstated as a venue for the Open, so we look forward to golf's most prestigious tournament returning to East Lothian and advancing the local economy.''