Tokyo golf venue bows to pressure and lifts restrictions on women

Board of Kasumigaseki Country Club voted unanimously to extend full membership

Kasumigaseki Country Club have voted unanimously to extend full membership to women. Photograph: Getty Images

Kasumigaseki Country Club have voted unanimously to extend full membership to women. Photograph: Getty Images

 

A week after Muirfield, a venerable course in Scotland, voted to admit women, the course selected to host the men’s and women’s golf tournaments at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo altered its membership rules for women.

After three briefings, the 15-man board of Kasumigaseki Country Club on Monday voted unanimously to extend full membership to women and allow them to play on Sundays.

The Guardian was the first to report the news about the private club, one of Japan’s oldest and most prestigious. Founded in 1929, it hosted the second Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in 2010, an event intended to expand the game and organised jointly by members of Augusta National Golf Club and the R&A.

Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, then 18, emerged the winner that year to earn his first trip to the Masters in 2011.

Six years later, Matsuyama is ranked fourth in the world, with top-10 finishes in his last two trips to Augusta National. In an interview in February, he credited the 2010 Asia-Pacific tournament, held on what he described as one of his favorite courses, as being instrumental to his rise.

“When I won there, that’s kind of what made it all possible why I’m sitting here today,” Matsuyama said before the Genesis Open in Los Angeles. “So I hope they get things worked out, and I hope Kasumigaseki will be the site of the Tokyo Olympic competition.”

The club got things worked out after receiving outside pressure, first from Yuriko Koike, the first female governor of Tokyo, who said she felt “very uncomfortable” that women “in this day and age” could not be full members.

More recently, International Olympic Committee officials vowed to move the 2020 competition if the club did not change its exclusionary membership policies.

Ai Miyazato, a former women’s No. 1 from Japan, was unaware of the club’s policy until informed last week by her caddie. In an interview with Golfweek, Miyazato said she felt “embarrassed” for her country and described the club’s rules as “outdated.”

The president of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, Yoshiro Mori, praised the club for voting to uphold the spirit of inclusion, which is central to the Olympic Charter. “I’d like to extend my gratitude to the members of the club for their understanding and cooperation,” Mori said in a statement.

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