London, June 28 (ANI): Veteran golfer Gary Player became the youngest Open Championship winner when he lifted the Claret Jug at Muirfield in 1959, but fifty years on, he has hit out at the men-only policy of the club in Scotland.
The 73-year-old South African made it clear that he was distinctly uncomfortable with the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers' single-sex policy.
Player, who was 23 when he lifted the Claret Jug at Muirfield, said: "One thing travel has taught me is to have respect for other people's point of view but I have to tell you, I do not agree with (the policy].
"Golf would not be the game it is without women. Winston Churchill said that change is the price of survival. I agree with that. I just don't see the point of excluding any member of society."
The veteran added: "That policy is their business. It's a decision they've made and they've got to live with it.
"I have designed many golf courses all over the world and I wouldn't like to think any of them would exclude women."
Club secretary Alastair Brown was taken aback by Player's comments. He said: "We are a private members' club and we conduct our own affairs. We don't have lady members, but ladies play here every day as guests. I'm interested in Gary's comments. His views haven't stopped him from returning to the club with a group of people in a week's time."
Player is due to host a sponsors' day at Muirfield on Monday next week to commemorate the half-century that has elapsed since his Open triumph there. The following day he will host the Gary Player Invitational at nearby Archerfield.
All money raised from the event will go to underprivileged children in rural South Africa.
Muirfield is a golf course in Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland, which is one of the courses used in rotation for The Open Championship.
Muirfield has hosted The Open Championship fifteen times, most recently in 2002 when Ernie Els lifted the trophy. Other past winners at Muirfield include Nick Faldo (twice), Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Henry Cotton, Alf Perry, Walter Hagen, Harry Vardon and Harold Hilton.
Muirfield has also hosted The Amateur Championship, the Ryder Cup, the Walker Cup, the Curtis Cup and many other tournaments.
Muirfield is due to host the Open for the 16th time in 2013 and the event will doubtless draw more attention to the club's single-sex rule.
When the tournament was last held in East Lothian in 2002, a number of wives and girlfriends of top players publicly expressed their disapproval. (ANI)