For the first time in its 80-year golfing history, Augusta National Golf Club, the most privately recognized, single-gender, iconic men’s club in the world and home of the Masters, now has two female members that will soon blend into the sea of green amid the Georgia pines.
The unexpected announcement was the most earth-shattering golf news for the entire 2012 golf season when Club Chairman Billy Payne announced that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore have become the first female members in green jackets when the club opens its gates for a new season in October. It was a shocking announcement heard around the sporting world.
The club began getting intensified public criticism regarding its membership polities in 2002 and 2003, led by feminist lobbyist Martha Burke, then chairwoman of the National Council of Women’s Organizations headquartered in Washington, to include women among its membership. This pressure all came a decade ago under the chairmanship of Hootie Johnson. Johnson stood his ground and responded by saying he would never give in to harsh criticism and change the club’s membership policies, and he never did. But the issue has been making Augusta increasingly uncomfortable.
But here’s what’s surprising to me. Upon his hearing about the naming of Rice and Moore as being the first women members, Chairman Emeritus Johnson said this: “he was happy the club had finally broken with membership tradition, and he could not be more pleased.” His response could not be more opposite than his firm stand in 2002 and 2003.
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Final thought. Here’s what seems to me bordering the ridiculous: Why would any woman want to join a 300-male single-gender golf club environment with all that testosterone present? Up until now it was the nation’s bastion for men, a chance to revel in a brief detachment from whatever their need might be – maybe as simple as getting away from a nagging wife. But sadly, now it is a different place forever. It has lost forever all its worldly recognition for men-only golf. The feminist membership networking will now commence. I wonder how long it will be before the next announcement is the election of the first woman board member? And could a women’s LPGA tournament be in the future pipeline?
The writer lives in Myrtle Beach.