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augusta national vs women

August 31, 2002

High ratings, global corporate reach and sheer mystique make the Masters and the British Open events of great significance. What few of the millions of weekend television viewers realize, however, is that the Masters and the British Open are run by clubs that do not accept women for membership. Simply put, both Augusta National and the R&A are exclusionary all-male clubs. Although Augusta maintains that its policies are not exclusionary -- its bylaws do not explicitly bar women members -- the fact stands: Since its opening in 1932, not one woman has been invited to join "the National." The R&A has been exclusively male since its founding in 1754.

In Fight Over Women, Masters Gives Up Ads: Rejecting demands that it quickly add women as members, Augusta National Golf Club said yesterday that it would do without commercial sponsors for the 2003 Masters telecast because the sponsors could come under pressure from women's groups. The club said that it had stripped its tournament of advertising from its three sponsors -- Citigroup, I.B.M. and Coca-Cola -- to protect them from a campaign begun in June by the National Council of Women's Organizations. In doing so, the club is also shielding itself from pressure it may receive from those companies to admit women as members.

My, my. How very impressive. Augusta National is willing to do without quite a lot of money to be able to discriminate as it will. How virtuous of them to protect their sponsors from pressure.

Mind ... their sponsors had not as yet experienced any pressure. And, you know, Citigroup, IBM, and Coca-Cola would strike me as companies well able to fend for themselves. (But not Pepsi. Pepsi notoriously has a spine of jello, as they have recently demonstrated yet again. But I digress.) And I expect that CBS and the USA Network subsidiary of Vivendi Universal will also be well able to fend for themselves.

"We are sorry, but not surprised, to see these corporations drawn into this matter, but continue to insist that our private club should not be managed by an outside group," Johnson said. "As I previously said, there may come a day when women will be invited to join our club, but that decision must be ours. We also believe that the Masters and the club are different, and that one should not affect the other."

And that's an impressively sophistical argument. Yes, the Masters and the club are technically different. However, the one is the most visible and spectacular event sponsored by the club; otherwise, outside Georgia, the club is completely invisible 11 months of the year. Thus, people identify the one with the other.

Had Augusta National chosen to do so, they could have admitted women fairly quietly at any time in the past few years, without anyone outside the club thinking that it was necessarily due to outside pressure. People might have felt that Augusta National had decided that, yes, women are both golfers AND people and might deserve admission. (Then again, Augusta National didn't admit that blacks were both golfers and people until 1990, and then at the point of the PGA's bayonet, when they declared that they would not hold PGA-sanctioned events at segregated clubs. Unfortunately, the LPGA has no such leverage over Augusta National. It's also worth noting that the PGA itself would probably not have caved had the Shoal Creek mess not induced sponsors to pull out of tournaments at segregated clubs, thus endangering prize money. Augusta National may, in fact, know its sponsors well. Oddly enough, Golf Digest Companies -- which owns Golf for Women, which has been a leader in publishing on this issue -- also publishes the official journal for the Masters Tournament. Given Augusta National's wonderfully autocratic method of handling things, I would expect that privilege to be withdrawn for the 2003 tournament, if the contracts have not already been signed.)

Interestingly, according to current PGA and US Golf Association rules, because of these specific policies, Augusta National cannot host the US Open, US Amateur, or PGA Championships. Mind, it's probably not a big issue; both the PGA and USGA are generally reluctant to allow a course to hold more than one major tournament per year. Still, it's very odd that both organizations would sanction a tournament held at a club so thoroughly at variance with the organizations' current rules.

In July, [William Johnson, chairman of Augusta National] said the club would not be "bullied, threatened or intimidated." He said that women would become members on the club's timetable, but "not at the point of a bayonet." To be sure, not wanting to be forced into a decision by outside pressure yet again is quite understandable. It might even laudable, under other circumstances. That said ... I'm guessing that the club's timetable allows women to be admitted somewhere on the twelfth of never, being as it's the 21st century and they still haven't quite gotten around to it yet.

... Augusta National's private prejudices are doomed by the very success of the Masters, a global event with vast public exposure, whose giant corporate sponsors -- Citigroup, IBM and Coca-Cola -- reach across the world. All-male clubs are legal, and Johnson may defend them. In April, he argued his club was "non-exclusionary," indicating he did not see it as all-male, even though Augusta National has never had a female member. But to reject an entire category for membership in a club that hosts such a public international event, and to insist on the public's acquiescence, is to fail to understand public values.

Well ... "doomed" is not quite the right word. After all, they may continue for some time to come.

(For those feeing that Tiger Woods should say or do something constructive about the issue, may I commend to you an impressively acid commentary from last month's USA Today.)

Interestingly, there are those that take issue with comparing Augusta National's exclusion of women with its exclusion of blacks. The issue, as I understand it, is that because segregation was a legal requirement for so very long, that somehow makes it different. OK, fine; that explains Augusta National's whites-only policy up through 1960. How then do you explain the thirty years after that?

After 1960, Augusta National's exclusion of blacks was a choice, pure and simple. A choice which they were legally allowed, but not required, to make. And until 1990, there were no significant consequences to that choice; when they were threatened with the loss of the tournament sanction, they admitted blacks. Now, again, admitting women is a choice, legal and allowable, if perhaps reprehensible. For the moment, Augusta National chooses to deal with the consequences of that.

Posted by iain at August 31, 2002 03:18 PM



Women should be kept out of golf! The club is an phallic extension of the male ego in which we hit our own balls to relieve the frustration and tension brought on by feminist destruction of traditional male/female roles in our society.

Women cannot compete with men anyway due to their breasts consticting their swing. Or maybe not.

Posted by Chauvinist Swine at August 31, 2002 03:47 PM

I am doing a Congress speech for my college communications class. My topic is to argue whether or not Augusta National should be forced to admit women members. I am disgusted by this web page. People think that discrimination mainly resides between races, but it is between genders as well. Your club is part of one of our nations biggest problem. And I hope that in the future women will be equal with men in you club. And refuring to Chauvinist Swine's commen on August 31, 2002...just because women have breasts doesn't mean that they can't swing. I bet there's dozens of women that can beat you.

Posted by Kim Johnson at October 9, 2002 08:32 PM

No person has mentioned that Bobby Jones founded the club at a time when it was not acceptable and/or fashionable for women to be a man's role in society. In a way time occupied at Augusta should be viewed as a buisness trip, for undisclosed reasons. Augusta's policy is too deep for the infidel or in other words, a non-devout golfer. This makes sense to few but those who do can translate to you; Why would an African American want to join the Ku Klux Klan? Also, to Mr. Double Par Pick-up, I'd like to see you shoot a 59 from the ladies' tees. It's cruel though because Sorrenstam did it from the mens'. It's also hard to get us players to boycott The Masters since playing at Augusta is Heaven for those who know they are going to Hell. I'd rather play golf at Augusta than play with all the most desirable woman in the world.

Posted by withheld at November 1, 2002 08:41 PM

No. I agree that Augusta National has the right to admit whom ever they wish. I wish I belonged to a club that did not admit women!

Posted by Steve Andrews at November 14, 2002 04:40 PM

Why is it that women must be involved in everything? Ladies dont get me wrong, I am not addressing all women but there is always a few who whine and protest when they are not addmitted to something.Im sure that if it ment that much to some women they could find away to find a place, like Augusta, for women. Let it be.

Posted by J. Pratt at December 8, 2002 10:01 PM

As long as the LPGA will not allow men, (unlike the PGA which DOES allow women),
this issue will be viewed as a double standard where it's OK to exclude men but wrong
to exclude women. I agree with J. Pratt - let it be.

Posted by M. Eder at January 31, 2003 03:06 PM

Okay, here is the way I see it. It is Augusta Nationals right to have whomever they want as members. That is their right as United States citizens. Now here is the fun part.

Hootie Johnson, I admire your tenacity in this subject. And if there was a way that I knew you would get this, I'd say that you handled it completely wrong. You got defensive instead of responsive. That is why this is still going on. Also, this is the 21st century, let's act like it.

This is for Martha Burk. From now on, pick a cause that is worth fighting for. This whole thing sounds like your crusade to draw attention to you, not what you are trying to do. Next time don't start throwing around ultimatums...it does not solve anything. What did you do, open up the paper one day and say "Let's screw with somebodys constituional rights today." Try looking in the mirror. This is a huge double standard in our country. You can have all female clubs, organizations, etc. but you can't have all make things. Doesn't make sense.

Last part, to all parties involved...GROW UP!

Posted by M.Schrider at March 20, 2003 05:05 PM

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