The Masters Tournament – The Name Says It All
I will admit up front that I don’t care much about golf. I’ll watch if my guy’s watching, I can appreciate an amazing shot, but it’s not something I’d choose to pay attention to on my own.
I do, however, read the news. And I’m heartily sick of the ongoing discussion of the fact that women are not allowed to be members at Augusta National – the course that hosts the Masters.
Every year, the media brings up the club’s segregationist policy. Every year, television devotes days of coverage and millions of dollars are spent by corporate sponsors. Every year, nothing changes.
Augusta National is politely described as “socially conservative.” That’s apparently what you call a club that didn’t allow black members until 1990, and used to require that all caddies be black.
Former club Chairman Hootie Johnson got into a public argument with Martha Burk of the National Council of Women’s Organizations over the continuing ban on women members. She said holding the Masters at Augusta was sexist. Johnson said Augusta was simply exercising the right many organizations practice – the right to choose who can belong. Current chairman Billy Payne isn’t changing anything, at least so far.
But the Masters is a major tournament. It’s a moneymaker. In 2003 and 2004, the blowback from the Burk/Johnson story led to a tournament without commercial sponsorship. The sponsors are back.
And Augusta is one of the best golf courses in the world, according to golfers. Women can play – they have to be a guest of a member. And the members are big names – Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Jack Welch. This year, the CEO of IBM, one of the Masters’ major sponsors, is Virginia Rometty. She’s reportedly a golfer, though she prefers to scuba. Four past IBM CEO’s have been invited to join. News reports say there’s no word if Rometty’s been invited. And she’s not saying.
What I’m sick of is the ongoing discussion of a policy that is so clearly a holdover from a century ago. I’m sick of the media’s sickening double standard. They benefit from the event twice – it’s a good news story, plus the tournament itself is major sports news.
Where’s the network that says, “Sorry, Augusta, we can’t support this policy and we won’t be televising the Masters?” Where’s the golfer who says, “Sorry, PGA, but I love my mom/wife/daughter and I just can’t support this?”
Augusta isn’t just a nice golf club. It’s a power networking club. And no women are allowed.
My dream? A golfer plays an incredible tournament, he wins, and at that horribly awkward moment where he’s congratulated by the Chairman of Augusta and presented with that hideous green jacket, he says, “No thanks. I just wanted to see if I could win it. But until you let women in as members, I can’t wear the jacket.”
It could happen.
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Barnett is the producer and host of 51%
The Women’s Perspective,
a weekly women’s issues radio show carried nationally on NPR,
ABC and Armed Forces Radio stations. 51% The Women’s Perspective
is part of WAMC
- Northeast Public Radio's national productions. "The View From Outside," Susan Barnett's new collection of short fiction, is available in eBook format at Amazon and Barnes and Noble through Hen House Press. You can connect with her on Facebook.
Photo by DB Leonard.