PHOENIX – Ai Miyazato wasn’t even aware of the gender-equality issues surrounding Olympic golf in her native Japan until it came up on Tuesday during a practice round with her caddie Mick Seaborn. News of Muirfield voting to allow female members led Seaborn to bring it up in conversation.
“When my caddie told me yesterday I felt so embarrassed,” said Miyazato, a former World No. 1. “I was like, are you serious?”
The venue for the 2020 Tokyo Games, Kasumigaseki Country Club, forbids women from becoming full members and from playing on Sundays. Kasumigaseki, host of the 2010 Asian-Pacific Amateur, is a top-5 course in Japan.
IOC vice president John Coates said earlier this month that Kasumigaseki would lose the event if the club’s membership policy doesn’t change.
Miyazato meets with members of the Japanese press every day on tour, but amazingly hadn’t been asked about the situation.
“Times have changed,” she said, calling Kasumigaseki’s policies outdated.
Like Miyazato, American Gerina Piller was unaware of the club’s discrimination until asked by a reporter.
“You’re trying to grow the game,” said Piller, “and that’s not growing the game. … You want to host an event that’s including men and women, but you’re discriminating against women. That’s not going to make us feel very welcome going to go to a place like that. It’s 2017.”