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Result of Muirfield membership vote to be announced in March

GULLANE, Scotland -- Muirfield will discover next month whether its members have voted to end the Scottish club's male-only policy, which could pave the way for its return to the rotation for The Open.

The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, which owns Muirfield, voted last May against admitting female members in a ballot of its members, a move that provoked sharp criticism from players and lawmakers.

Muirfield was immediately stripped of its right to host The Open.

A second vote was announced, and the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers said on Thursday the result is expected to be announced in mid-March.

"Voting in favor of the resolution to admit women as members is recommended, unanimously, by the captain, captain nominate, and the club committee of the Honourable Company," a statement from the company said.

A two-thirds majority is required for change. Out of 616 members who voted the first time, 36 percent were against allowing women.

Muirfield has staged The Open 16 times dating to 1892, most recently in 2013 when Phil Mickelson won.

Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the Royal and Ancient, which runs The Open, has said the governing body "would reconsider Muirfield as a venue for The Open in future" if there is a change in policy.