Breaking news! Yesterday, the Augusta National Golf Club admitted its first female members.
And crept into the 20th century. Oh, wait…that still puts them about a century behind. Actually, I guess that’s about right. This was big news yesterday with Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne making a formal announcement stating that “this was a joyous occassion.” He also stated that they were “enthusiastically” admitting these two new female members.
Hmmm….interesting. That makes it seem as if they’d been waiting for so long to admit women – and now that there were finally women who were worthy and interested in joining the club – they were just so enthusiastic to make it happen. Funny… That story – and that sentiment – seem at odds with reality.
Let’s go back to a time, not so very long ago, when Augusta had the perfect opportunity to do what they have just now so enthusiastically done: last spring. Yes, just a few short months ago, the membership committee had the perfect opportunity to extend its membership to someone who seemed to be the perfect candidate. The president of IBM – one of their biggest and most prominent corporate sponsors. The fact is, they grant all of CEOs of their major sponsors membership. But IBM’s new CEO happened to be a woman.
This left Augusta in a bit of a quandry wondering which tradition to break: Granting membership to CEOs of their (biggest) sponsors? Or, granting membership to a woman? And last spring, in an attempt to *not answer* the question of whether or not they would admit their first female member (in various interviews), they effectively *did answer* that question – by not granting Rommety membership. Augusta and their membership committee should have been blasted this past spring when they refused membership to Rommety. Instead, there were a few stories leading up to the Masters highlighting the drama of “would she/wouldn’t she” get in, and then the whole thing kind of fizzled when she wasn’t. It’s disappointing, though perhaps not surprising, that there was such little coverage or anger regarding Augusta’s decision. (And this is certainly not to say that Rommety was the first woman “worthy” of membership.) Sadly, I think the story would have gotten much more press and criticism if a male CEO of IBM had been denied membership…
But now that they have admitted two female members, we should all step forward and applaud them. They’ve obviously been so enthusiastic and eager to do this. (I would like to stress that the two females selected do seem to be fantastic people with incredible resumes and accomplishments.)
I will actually applaud the media’s coverage of this event as congratulatory, but not overly so. It was something that needed to happen (and should have happened decades ago), so let’s acknowledge it and move forward. I haven’t seen many writers that have taken the bait and jumped to give them a gold star or an “A+”. Instead, I’ve seen headlines such as “Augusta Inches Forward”, “Better Late than Never”, and “What Took So Long”; certainly appropriate for the occasion. It only took 78 years, and not granting membership to the head of one of your biggest sponsors (among many other protests by women’s rights groups) to get your proverbial head out of the sand.
Sure, I know that it’s a private club and that legally they’re allowed to restrict membership however they see fit. But come on…as the premier, prestigious golf tournament in the world why not try to lead the charge on what’s ethically right. And if you’re not willing to lead the charge, then at least stay somewhere in the middle of the pack; don’t drag your feet and make yourself the symbol of segregation and exclusion for anyone who is not a rich, white male. Golf is a “gentleman’s game”, and I’d certainly like to think that the modern gentleman has progressed from the exclusionary practices of the past (unfortunately, it’s not just Augusta that has proven this still persists in many arenas).
So thanks, but let’s move forward. You’re still an organization that only allowed it’s first black member in 1990. You’re still an organization that only allows access to the super wealthy. You’re still an organization that’s far behind…likely stuck somewhere in the 20th century. It’s time to make yourself an organization that *enthusiastically* leads some of these charges for doing the right thing and then we can step forward and applaud you for a job well done.