Six years ago it was still men-only — now Muirfield hosts the Women's Open for first time

    General view of the Muirfield golf course on the 4th tee box prior to the 2022 AIG Women's Open in Gullane, Scotland.

    (CNN)There are few firsts left to be made at Muirfield, home to a golf club founded in the mid-18th century.

    Yet after hosting 16 men's British Open Championships across 130 years, on Thursday, the women's event will tee off at the fabled Scottish links course for the first time.
    It has been a long wait that looked set to be prolonged in May 2016 when the privately owned club's members -- The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers -- voted against overturning its male-only membership policy. Established in 1744 at Leith in Edinburgh, the club moved to the East Lothian site in 1891.
      The result of that vote was labeled "obscene" by four-time major champion Rory McIlroy and "indefensible" by Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and the Royal and Ancient (R&A) -- organizers of the Open -- promptly banned the course from hosting the major.
        However, Muirfield was reinstated as an Open venue in March the following year after a fresh ballot saw the club vote 80.2% in favor of accepting female members, achieving the two-thirds majority needed to overturn the 2016 vote.
        Five years on, the course opens its doors for the fifth and final major of the women's season, much to the delight of the participants.
        It will be a special kind of excitement for Scottish golfer Catriona Matthew who, beyond having the opportunity to experience a major just a short drive from home, will go down in history as the first woman to tee off at Muirfield in a Women's Open.
          "It's a huge honor when you're asked to do something like that," Matthew, Open champion at Royal Lytham in 2009, told reporters 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 are delighted to have that opportunity to come here and play their own Open.
          "That just elevates this championship, and we are now going to courses that people are used to seeing The Open and the majors on. I think it's good for us."
          Matthew holds the trophy aloft following her Open victory at Royal Lytham St Annes Golf Club, England in 2009.
          The 52-year-old admitted she was "disappointed" with the initial vote to maintain male-only membership, but believes the reversal showed