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Golf: Open chiefs look for female support.

Open officials said yesterday it would be "a shame" if no women attempted to qualify for this year's championship at Hoylake.

The Royal and Ancient Club, a male-only club which has run the championship at male-only courses since it began at Prestwick in 1860, agreed last year to allow women to play if they qualified. However, no entries have been received for regional qualifying which takes place at several courses on July 5.

With the pounds 1 million Women's World Match Play Championship in America starting on July 6, it appears highly unlikely that any female professionals will attempt to qualify.

Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A, said: "We did not open it up to women hoping they would not enter, we did the reverse. Having done that, it would be something of a shame if they did not take advantage of the opportunity. I personally hope that we will. That said, it's never been our intention in any way to disrupt the women's tours and their schedules but the option is available to the women players."

Entry into regional qualifying is limited to the top five in three of this year's majors and last year's Women's British Open. When told some players were unaware they were eligible to enter qualifying, Dawson said: "I'm surprised to hear that, given the amount of publicity the subject has had on both sides of the Atlantic, but we can write to them individually."

Prize-money at Hoylake has yet to be announced, but Martin Kippax, chairman of the R&A's championship committee, said last place in the 156-strong field would be worth pounds 2,100 - the amount won by Roberto de Vicenzo when the Open was last staged at Royal Liverpool in 1967. The course, at 7,258 yards, has been lengthened by only 263 yards since then.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 26, 2006
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