Muirfield and Brexit: Voters ask for Mulligans?
Golf was invented in the United Kingdom, Scotland to be exact. Similarly, the Mulligan appears to have been innovated by David Mulligan, a Canadian amateur (and subject of the Crown) who took a “correction shot” sometime in the 1920s. His playing partners decided the maneuver should be named after the Canuck though, and the Mulligan was born.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that many voters in two recent newsworthy referenda in the UK are asking for Mulligans. These referenda are of vastly different magnitudes of importance, however.
At Muirfield Golf Club, Home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, members voted recently to continue the club’s policy of not admitting female members. The media backlash was immediate and severe – apparently so much so that the members were caught a bit off guard. Most drastic was the response from The R and A, who swiftly announced that Muirfield would be removed forthwith from The Open rota. This was all big news in the golf world, but a mere footnote in the international news.
Far more impactful was the recent “Brexit” referendum, by which a majority of UK voters expressed their desire to leave the European Union. This surprised most of the world – and apparently also a large portion of Brits, including some of those who voted to leave – as did the historical overnight devaluation of the British pound and the British (and international) stock markets. It may also have been a shock to hear other EU member states to say, essentially, “Well, if that’s the way you feel, bugger off, then,” rather than beg the UK to stay. Not all that different from the R and A’s response to the Muirfield vote, actually.
The Brexit vote also broke down interestingly in terms of demographics and region: Younger voters preferred to remain in the EU; older voters – especially the very old – preferred to leave. Northern Ireland and Scotland voters preferred to remain in the EU; English and Welsh voters preferred to leave. Given the results, there is renewed interest in Scotland to split from the UK and join the EU as an independent nation. And in Northern Ireland, the Brexit vote has reignited efforts to leave the UK and join Ireland, which is an EU member. (Golfers will note that most of the UK’s most celebrated courses are located in Scotland and Northern Ireland.)
Given the monumental loss of capital immediately after Brexit, and the prospect of prolonged rancor as Scotland and Northern Ireland explore their own referenda (what’s good for the crown is good for the jewels, after all), there is a strong push among the public and among politicians to find some way to take a Mulligan on this historic vote.
A do-over at Muirfield would obviously be the easier to pull off. They are golfers, after all. Shake a few new ballots out of your trouser leg, kick the old ones under a gorse bush, and Bob’s your uncle: Welcome ladies!
Brexit is an entirely different kettle of fish – more like a kettle of whales, really. But the feeling of profound regrexit seems to be very real, even among “leave” voters who just wanted to protest EU regulations but never dreamed there would be enough votes to actually win. Or lose, as the case may be.
Perhaps the Mulligan is not allowed under the rules of golf, but if you and your buddies all agree on one per round, no harm done. No one knows this better than the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield. Likewise, maybe the pols and public in the UK can agree to ignore the wild slice they just hit into the woods, re-tee, and take another swing.
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