Five years later, the course opens its doors for the fifth and last major of the women’s season, to the delight of the participants.
It will be a special kind of excitement for Scottish golfer Catriona Matthew who, as well as having the opportunity to experience a major tournament a short drive from her home, will go down in history as the first woman to play at Muirfield in a Women’s Open.
“It’s a huge 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 have watched the men play here over the years and I think they’re thrilled to have this opportunity to come here and play their own Open.
“It just elevates this championship, and now we’re going to courses that people are used to seeing the Open and the Majors on. I think that’s good for us.”
The 52-year-old admitted she was “disappointed” with the initial vote to keep the all-male membership but believes the reversal showed progress was being made.
“Just looking forward rather than looking back,” Matthews added. “Golf, starting in Scotland, we had maybe a lot more traditions, which we are gradually evolving over time.
“I hope that every girl or boy who plays golf can see men and women playing on the same golf courses, which is good.”
Anna Nordqvist comes to East Lothian as the reigning Open champion, having picked up a one-shot victory at Carnoustie last year. With her first major appearance as an amateur at the event in 2007, the triumph cemented a “special” bond between the three-time Major winner Swede and the Open.
“I’ve heard a lot about Muirfield,” Nordqvist said. “I know the guys have played here over the years so I think it’s an amazing opportunity for us to have Muirfield added to our Open rotation.
“Coming in through the door, (I) saw my picture – it’s the first picture you see – obviously it’s still pretty surreal to have my name on the trophy,” she added. .
Despite the pain of seeing Sweden beaten 4-0 in the semi-finals by the eventual champions, Nordqvist sees parallels in the increased coverage of women’s football and golf.
“It’s just exciting to see that I think women’s sport (all) around the world is getting more attention,” she said.
“It was quite a big event, the way they were running it and the TV times, I think that’s very important. Our tee times are getting better too. A lot of times we leave early because (of) … the guys’ schedule.”
While Nordqvist starts as the defending champion, Brooke Henderson arguably starts off as the in-form player.
After withdrawing from the Scottish Open, won by Japan’s Ayaka Furue on Sunday, Henderson is “recharged” and eager to go.
“Playing this year really means a lot to all of us,” she said. “It’s just proof that women’s football continues to grow – the size of the purses is increasing, we’re on network TV more and we’re playing in these top venues.
“It’s just a really fun time to be a part of women’s golf because it’s growing so much and we feel like we’re making a difference for future generations.”
“I was extremely excited to be a part of this event this year,” she said.
“I knew the history, and the fact that we were going to be the first women’s tournament here too was pretty amazing.
“So I was just more excited to be here and to be able to play on this golf course and soak up everything and the history of this place.”
Catriona Matthew is set to play first his band alongside Sophia Schubert and Louise Duncan at 6:30 a.m. local time (1:30 a.m. ET) Thursday.