Augusta National and Women

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I’d like to think I’m an opened-minded, equal-opportunity supporter of most things in life – but in all honesty I don’t personally care if Augusta National Golf Club does or does not add women to its membership roll.  As long as nobody gets physically hurt, organizations need to be free to make their own decisions – and if the nearly 80-year-old club wants to soon add lady members, great. If not, that’s its choice too.

The dicey membership topic came up again Wednesday in the press conference room during Augusta Chairman Billy Payne’s annual address to the media – and several media wouldn’t let the subject go even when it was clear Payne was not going to take the bait.

“All issues of membership are now and have been historically subject to the private deliberations of the members, and that statement remains accurate and remains my statement,” Payne said. “We don’t talk about our private deliberations. We especially don’t talk about them when a named candidate is part of the question.”

The named candidate he was referring to is the current CEO of IBM, Ginni Rometty, who by all reports happens to play golf. Augusta National has set a precedent by previously offering membership to the leadership of the Masters’ three key sponsors, IBM, Exxon Mobil and AT&T.

Several male and female media kept asking Payne about the issue, even bringing it down to the level of what do you tell your granddaughters about leading a club that excludes women. Payne responded: “Once again, though expressed quite artfully, I think that’s a question that deals with membership and … my conversations with my granddaughters are also personal.”

After moving on to other golf competition and weather-altered course issues, the final question of the day came from a male reporter who asked Payne what the reporter should tell his daughters about the membership issue. Payne said, “I don’t know your daughters… I have no advice for you there, sir.”

I say good for you Mr. Payne. Few things irritate me more than outside entities telling businesses, organizations or even families what to do. That can be applied to critics of Augusta National or our government trying to tell me to buy health insurance, for example. And I’m likely not alone since 95 percent of the media in the room Wednesday were continuously shaking their heads at those who wouldn’t let it go.

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