Column: Masters, Augusta, Georgia, here we go again
As the beginning of the Masters dawns in Augusta, Georgia the social engineers are at it again. At issue with the self appointed guardians of righteousness is the membership policies of the host club, Augusta National Golf Club. Specifically they are referring to the all male membership at the club which has been the policy since the clubs inception in the 1930’s.
This issue was raised in the media ten years ago by a grandstanding publicity hound named Martha Burk who had little in the way of qualifications but wasn’t lacking in a loud mouth and a lot of nerve.
She tried it all in the name of having a woman admitted as a member - boycotting, demonstrating, repeated press conferences with no effect on anything at Augusta National. The chairman at the time, Hootie Johnson, told her he wouldn’t bow to the pressure “on the point of a bayonet.”
The issue had died down since then but what has created the new cacophony of conformity by the politically correct is the recent appointment of Virginia Rometty, a woman, as CEO of IBM Corporation. You see, IBM is one of the sponsors of the telecasts as well as Exxon-Mobil and AT&T. According to several media outlets, all the previous CEO’s of IBM, who were men, have been invited as members at Augusta National. They don’t cite their sources on that information and since the membership roster is confidential and very closely guarded, it is impossible to confirm that fact to be true.
As usual, the facts and the law are of little interest to the purveyors of political correctness. Just for the fun of it let’s try to shed a little light on things as they are rather than the way some people want them to be.
First of all, as a private club, Augusta National is fully within their legal rights to discriminate based on gender in their membership. It is protected under the First Amendment (free speech and right of assembly) of the United States constitution. This issue has been litigated in several courts, including the United States Supreme Court.
Second of all, women are allowed on the grounds and are allowed to play the golf course with a member, a policy common at most private clubs.
More subjectively, the Masters is, by far, the most admired golf tournament in the world by golfers, spectators and the television audience. It is the hardest ticket to get in sports. The tickets never really go on sale to the public and the waiting list for tickets was disbanded years ago because nobody was going to live long enough to ever get the chance to buy a ticket.
The Masters is a festival of golf in its purest form at its most beautiful cathedral. Unlike any other professional golf tournament these days the Masters is not commercialized in any way at the golf course. There are no corporate tents, there are no corporate signs, no logos, no commercialization. In fact, at the concession stands they don’t even allow those cute little draft beer taps with the company logo. The choices are: beer, light beer or imported beer.
You don’t know what kind of beer you’re getting but for $2.50 or $3.00, who cares? A pimento cheese sandwich costs $3.00. There is no trash and no blade of grass is out of place.
Many people who’ve never been have the impression that inside the gates is a very uptight place. Quite to the contrary, it is the most relaxed, congenial, cleanest, happiest place you’ve ever been. Everyone is just thrilled to be there and it is a festival of enjoyment amongst the most knowledgeable golf patrons this side of St Andrews.
Augusta National also controls the television rights and programming which makes them unique in today’s money driven sports broadcasting world. It tells the television networks (ESPN and CBS) that they will be allowed to broadcast and when, what they will be paid, who the (limited) advertisers will be and how much they will pay and will limit the number of commercial interruptions for the enjoyment of the viewing public. No other entity can dictate this type of business arrangement with television.
But now, somehow, the self appointed holy people who couldn’t successfully run a candy store, have the gall to try to tell the most successful club with the most revered golf tournament in the world how to run their business and their private club.
To what end? To dilute the purest and most joyous expression of golf the world has ever seen? Just what will that accomplish and just what would that mean to any of these advocates? Will they be happy if the Masters looks like every other golf tournament? Will they somehow pound their chests and claim they got Augusta National to capitulate? If Augusta National admitted one woman member, what would that matter in the big scheme of things?
The word I got recently from someone in Augusta who is familiar with Augusta National is that Virginia Rometty is not a member and isn’t about to become one and the more pressure from the outside brought to bear on the club, the longer it will take to change their policy. The guys who run Augusta National are the captains of industry accustomed to telling other people what to do and not being told what to do by anyone and that will not change any time soon.
My suggestion is to mind your own business, sit back and enjoy the finest golf tournament of the year.Written by Wayne Mills
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