Five years later, to the great delight of the participants, the course opens its doors for the fifth and final major of the women’s season.
It will be a special kind of excitement for Scottish golfer Catriona Matthew, who will not only have the opportunity to experience a Major just a short drive from home, but will also go down in history as the first woman to play at Muirfield at teeing off at a Women’s Open.
“It’s a great honor when you’re asked to do something like this,” Matthew, Open Champion at Royal Lytham in 2009, told reporters on Tuesday.
“I think it’s going to be a great experience… all the players will see the men play here over the years and I think they’re excited about this opportunity to come here and play their own Opens.
“It just makes this Championship stand out and we are now going to courses where people are used to seeing The Open and the Majors. I think that’s good for us.”
The 52-year-old admitted she was “disappointed” with the initial vote to keep male-only membership but believes the reversal shows progress is being made.
“You just have to look forward instead of looking back,” added Matthews. “Golf, starting in Scotland, maybe we had a lot more traditions that we’re just gradually moving with the times.
“Hopefully any girls or boys who play golf can see both the men and women playing on the same golf courses, which is good.”
Anna Nordqvist arrives in East Lothian as the defending Open champion after claiming a one-shot win at Carnoustie last year. Making her first major appearance as an amateur at the event in 2007, the triumph cemented a “special” bond between the three-time Major winner and the Open.
“I’ve heard a lot about Muirfield,” said Nordqvist. “I know the lads have played here over the years so I think it’s a great opportunity for us to add Muirfield to our Open rotation.
“As I walked in through the gate, (I) saw my picture – it’s the first picture you see – obviously it still feels pretty surreal to have my name on the trophy,” she added.
Despite the pain of seeing Sweden beat eventual champions 4-0 in the semi-finals, Nordqvist sees parallels in the increased coverage of women’s football and golf.
“It’s just exciting to see that I love women’s sport (all) around the world is getting more attention,” she said.
“It was quite a big event, the way they ran it and the TV times, I think that’s very important. Our tee times are also getting better. A lot of times we tee off earlier because (off)… the boys’ schedule.”
While Nordqvist tees off as reigning champion, Brooke Henderson arguably starts as a form player.
After retiring from the Scottish Open, which was won by Japan’s Ayaka Furue on Sunday, Henderson is “recharged” and full of energy.
“Playing this year means a lot to all of us,” she said. “It’s just proof that women’s football continues to grow – the purses are getting bigger, we’re on network television more and we’re playing in these better places.
“It’s just a really fun time to be a part of women’s golf because it’s growing so strongly and we feel like we’re making an impact for future generations.”
“I was really looking forward to attending this event this year,” she said.
“I knew the history and the fact that we were also going to be the first women’s tournament out here was pretty amazing.
“So I was just more excited to actually be out here playing this golf course and absorbing everything and the history of this place.”
Catriona Matthew will tee off first her group alongside Sophia Schubert and Louise Duncan on Thursday at 6:30 a.m. local time (1:30 a.m. ET).