It took much too long for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews to begin to modernize and join the rest of society in the 21st century — though the all-male membership was somewhat pressured into it — but kudos to the members for voting to admit women a little over a year ago in September 2014.
On Monday the R&A announced the addition of two more female members, Marlene Stewart Streit and Judy Bell, two of North America’s most accomplished amateur golfers.
Stewart Streit, a Canadian who is the only player to win the British, Canadian, U.S. and Australian women’s amateur titles, and Bell, a former Curtis Cup captain and player and United States Golf Association president, both accepted invitations to become honorary members.
They follow Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, Dame Laura Davies, Renée Powell, Belle Robertson MBE, Lally Segard, Annika Sorenstam and Louise Suggs, who sadly passed away in August, in becoming Honorary Members. A further eight women have also become Members of the Club.
“It is a privilege to welcome two women who have enjoyed such long and distinguished careers in golf to The Royal and Ancient Golf Club,” said Gavin Caldwell, Captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. “Both Marlene and Judy have made substantial contributions to golf through their outstanding achievements as players and their tireless work in supporting the development of the sport. They are both wonderful examples to follow and tremendous ambassadors for golf.”
Stewart Streit’s remarkable career included winning 11 Canadian Ladies Open Amateurs, nine Canadian Ladies Close Amateurs, four Canadian Ladies’ Seniors and three U.S. Senior Women’s Championships. After winning the Ladies’ British Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl in 1953, she went on to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1956 and the Australian Women’s Amateur in 1963.
In 1951 and 1956, Stewart Streit, who was born in Cereal, Alberta, was named Canada’s top athlete of the year. She went on to establish the Marlene Streit Awards Fund to support promising young golfers. In 2004, she became Canada’s first member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and is also a Member of the Order of Canada, the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
“I am absolutely delighted to be invited to join such a historic and prestigious institution in golf,” said Stewart Streit. “I would never have dreamt of this all those years ago when I started out playing golf but I have enjoyed every moment of it. I am extremely proud and grateful to receive this honour and it means a great deal not just to me but to Canadian golf as a whole.”
Bell, who was born in Wichita, Kansas, took up golf at the age of ten and in 1952 reached the semi-final of the U.S. Junior Girls’ Championship in California where she was defeated by Mickey Wright. Bell went on to play in two American Curtis Cup teams in 1960 and 1962 and captained the team in 1986 and 1988. She set the then lowest score, a 67, in the U.S. Women’s Open in 1964, and, in a successful amateur career, won the Broadmoor Invitational title three times, the Florida East Coast Championships three times, the Palm Beach Invitational, the 1958 South Atlantic Championship, and the 1963 Trans-Mississippi title.
In 1996, Bell became the first woman to be named president of the USGA. She joined the USGA’s junior championship committee in 1961 and went on to act as a Rules official at the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open. Bell served on the USGA’s women’s committee for 16 years and became the first female member of the USGA executive committee. She was nominated to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2001.
“I’m honored to follow in the footsteps of so many great players and people who have been so influential in the game,” said Bell. “The Royal and Ancient Golf Club enjoys such a special place at the heart of golf and I am thrilled to be part of it. Golf has been very good to me over the years and this is a wonderful distinction to receive.”