It is a story that won’t go away– Augusta National, home of the Masters, still hasn’t admitted a female member, or at least not one that has been confirmed to the public. It isn’t an issue that will overshadow the actual tournament – not like Martha Burk’s protest nearly a decade ago that drew headlines and attention to the matter. But it is ever present — looming like a house guest that stays longer than they are welcome.
The issue cropped up again when Bloomberg News released a story last week saying that IBM’s new chief executive, Virginia Rometty, might have issues with the matter as a prime sponsor of the tournament considering she can’t actually join the club.
It might seem like a tempest in a teapot, but it is time Augusta National joined stepped out of the dark ages and didn’t look like the old boys club that it truly is. It is time to admit that a rule that means half the population can’t be a member at one of the most legendary golf clubs in the world is wrong. And at a time when the game is struggling to find new golfers – many of which are women – we need to recognize Augusta’s stance on gender could now be damaging. We’re not in the 1930s any longer. Times have changed, but Augusta still resembles the club it was when it first opened in 1933.
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve played men-only clubs, several in fact. In Canada, the National Golf Club in Woodbridge, Ont. is the only example, but they are relatively common in the U.S. Though my wife chides me for patronizing such a club, I’ve never really had an issue with it. It is a private golf club – exclusionary by nature. Besides, there’s the Toronto Ladies Golf Club, which is the only club in North America where women are the only full members, so I always rationalized that it balanced out, though I recognize it really hasn’t.