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Sports Minister criticises all male clubs

A British cabinet minister urged the Royal & Ancient golf club to make sure there is no gender discrimination at all-male clubs hosting the Open.

Tessa Jowell, secretary of Culture, Media and Sport, stated in a letter to R&A secretary Peter Dawson that "all events" held in conjunction with the Open should be "open to both sexes."

Royal St. George's, the site of this year's British Open, and Royal Troon, which will host the 2004 event, have no women members.

Jowell's aides said she was referring to parties, dinners, receptions and other social events held during the tournament.

Jowell said the government is supporting a draft bill which would outlaw sexual discrimination in private clubs with more than 25 members.

"I hope the R&A will set the standard on this issue and conduct the Open in the spirit of this draft legislation," Jowell wrote to Dawson. "I am sure you will agree it is fitting that one of our first and most loved sporting championships should set an example on this important issue."

Jowell's letter comes at a time when the all-male membership of Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters, is under scrutiny.

Martha Burk, chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organisations, plans to protest during the April 10-13 tournament in Augusta, Ga.

The R&A, world governing body for golf outside the United States and Mexico, has no women members. It is a private club of 2,400 based in St. Andrews, Scotland.

Dawson denied gender discrimination exists at the Open.

"I would like to reassure the minister that the Open championship has never discriminated except on the field of play - we are a men's Open," Dawson said. "And I would reassure everyone else that there is absolutely no gender discrimination at the Open. It's a non-issue."


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