<
>

Royal & Ancient admits women

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- The Royal and Ancient Golf Club announced Tuesday that seven women have accepted invitations to become honorary club members, including Swedish great Annika Sorenstam and Britain's Princess Anne.

The private club, which has a membership of 2,400, voted in September to end 260 years of male-only exclusivity by voting in favor of inviting women to join. On Tuesday, it said that in addition to the honorary members, "a number of women have been admitted as members of the Club with more set to follow in the coming months."

Traditionally the club does not reveal the identities of actual members, men or women.

"This is an historic day for the club and we could not be more proud also to welcome women who have distinguished themselves in golf over many years and have been great players and champions," R&A captain George Macgregor said. "They are extremely worthy additions to our roll of honorary members and will become ambassadors for the club as they have been for the sport of golf throughout their careers."

Princess Anne competed in equestrian for Britain at the 1976 Olympics and is an IOC member.

Anne is the fourth member of the royal family to become an honorary member of the R&A, joining her father Prince Phillip, brother Prince Andrew and the Duke of Kent.

"The Princess Royal enjoys a strong bond with Scotland and has shown great energy and commitment to developing sport through her work in the Olympic movement," Macgregor said.

Golf is returning to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro next year after an absence of more than a century.

Sorenstam, a 10-time major champion, expressed her appreciation on Twitter.

Two other British honorary members are Laura Davies, who has won four majors, and Belle Robertson, an amateur great.

Davies, preparing to play in the Australian Ladies Masters on the Gold Coast in Queensland state, said Wednesday it was a "great honor" to be included.

"Obviously I'm going to have lots of friends now because if I get a tee time they'll want to come and play," Davies said. "It's just great to have it bestowed on you."

Davies, with 79 professional wins, was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in last year's Queen's Birthday honors list in Britain.

Two U.S. women were admitted: Renee Powell, only the second black player to compete on the LPGA Tour, and Louise Suggs, a co-founder and former LPGA president who won 11 majors.

Completing the list is Frenchwoman Lally Segard, who won 14 titles before becoming president of the World Amateur Golf Council, which is now known as the International Golf Federation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.