Landmark in women’s golf
In a move that prompted several eye rolls and a few “well it’s about time” mumbles from women across America, the Augusta National Golf Club has permitted women to join. Its first two female members are former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore.
The club, established in 1932, has held a long-standing policy prohibiting female membership. It had withstood as recent as April, when chairman of the club and the Masters Tournament Billy Payne said the issue was a private matter.
The issue was addressed during this year’s Masters Tournament when IBM became the sponsor. The tournament had always guaranteed membership to its officers, but IBM’s top executive was a woman.
“Well, as has been the case, whenever that question is asked, all issues of membership are now and have historically been subject to the private deliberation of members,” Payne said in an Augusta Chronicle article. “That statement remains accurate; it remains my statement.”
However, within a few months, that policy changed to the delight and surprise of women’s rights activists everywhere as Payne welcomed Augusta’s first female members with open arms.
“This is a joyous occasion as we enthusiastically welcome Secretary Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as members of Augusta National Golf Club,” Payne said as quoted in a CNN blog. “We are fortunate to consider many qualified candidates for membership at Augusta National. Consideration with regard to any candidate is deliberate, held in strict confidence and always takes place over an extended period of time. The process for Condoleezza and Darla was no different.”
Rice was honored to be among the first accepted.
“I have long admired the important role Augusta National has played in the traditions and history of golf,” Rice said in the same blog. “I also have an immense respect for the Masters Tournament and its commitment to grow the game of golf, particularly with youth, here in the United States and throughout the world.”
While the change of policy has thrilled women’s rights activists, most think that the change is overdue.
Women’s rights activist Martha Burk tried to change the policy back in 2003 when she showed up at the club’s entrance to lead a series of protests against strictly male membership.
In spite of the club’s right to exclude women because it is a private club, Burk thinks Augusta can no longer claim to be private because it hosts a very public event: the prestigious Masters Tournament.
“I don’t agree with exclusion of women from golf clubs regardless, but we would not certainly be addressing the issue if they didn’t have the most public golf event on the planet,” Burk said in a CNN interview. “Why is it all right in the 21st century to discriminate against women, to defend it and for the CEOs of America’s largest corporations to belong to a club that excludes half their customers?”
In spite of the fact that many people believe this policy change is 30 years late, many remain optimistic about the results that will come due to the inclusion of women.
UMHB women’s head golf coach Nancy Taylor-Capps is confident about the outcome.
“After playing on the LPGA Tour for 13 years and playing in over 220 pro-am events, those relationships that are developed on the course are priceless,” Capps said. “The opportunity for ladies to excel at business on the golf course will definitely improve.”