It was announced yesterday that Augusta National, home of the Master’s golf tournament has admitted two women members. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore have both accepted invitations to be members. Up until now, the club has maintained an all male membership. The club admitted it’s first African American member in 1990, 22 years ago.
In 2003 the chairwoman of the National Council of Women Organizations began drawing attention to the club’s all male policy with protests and a national campaign to get them to change. From an outsider’s perspective it looks like it was not handled very carefully as the chairman of the tournament at that time, Hootie Johnson, said they wouldn’t admit women “at the point of a bayonet!” A statement like that is volatile and is going to get a lot of play time in the media. He went on to make other public relations mistakes, such as “the media tries to portray us — or this woman portrays us — as being discriminatory, and being bigots. And we’re not.” That just gets his name, and the club’s name out with those high velocity words, bigots and discriminatory, now a quote that reporters are going to repeat over and over again.
In 2006 Billy Payne, another chairman took over. Some speculate that inviting women members has been on his list since he took office. We will never know.
More attention was drawn to the subject of female members when IBM, one of the Master’s largest sponsors appointed a female chief executive, Virginia Rometty, the prior 4 male chief executives had all been members at August. On the final day of the round, she wore a pink blazer instead of a green one. Rometty however, is not one of the two women joining at this time.
When I asked Mike Merchent, Director of Golf at Purgatory Golf Club what he thought of the change, he said, “I think it’s good, it’s progress. Condoleezza Rice has been a huge supporter of junior golf.” Hopefully you all think it is a good change also.