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Finally, an Augusta fore women

FILE: Two Women Are Admitted To AugustNational Golf Club

FILE: Two Women Are Admitted To Augusta National Golf Club

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Updated: September 22, 2012 6:35AM



That wasn’t so hard, was it?

Women can become members at Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters, as of Monday, and the world hasn’t collapsed.

In a statement released Monday, Tim Finchem, commissioner of the PGA Tour, said of the news, “At a time when women represent one of the fastest-growing segments in both playing and following the game of golf, this sends a positive and inclusive message for our sport.”

Wonderful PR nonsense, that.  Do you really think former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and millionaire South Carolina banker Darla Moore were abruptly let in because they like golf? If coyotes or zombies represented ‘‘one of the fastest-growing segments’’ of golf interest, would they have been let in? A-wooooh! 

No, this happened because it silenced critics and filled several needs for the legendary old boys’ club — at the right time.

Indeed, some sports folks are thinking about the approaching Ryder Cup, and others are hacking at the little white ball at their own golf courses around the country as summer begins to wind down. 

But golf is not on many folks’ minds, and, if it is, nobody has been thinking much about Augusta National. That’s a springtime passion.

And so, a big atta-boy! to former chairman Hootie Johnson, who said in 2003 that his club might someday invite women to join, but it would be on the ol’ boys’ timetable, ‘‘not at the point of a bayonet.’’

Perfect sneaky timing, fellows!

That bayonet image was always a, um, hoot because the big dagger was held by Martha Burk, the non-threatening, middle-aged former chairwoman of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, who started protesting the male-only exclusivity of Augusta National a decade ago.

Burk’s greatest attribute, other than frank reasonableness, might be persistence, and she told news media of the sudden change at Augusta, ‘‘I knew we could outlast them.’’ Her advice to young female do-gooders? ‘‘Never give up, never give up, never give up.’’ Spoken just like a vintage male coach.

Indeed, the holdout by Augusta was so absurd after a time that it almost became quaint. Did these rich fellers in green jackets ever step into the real world? The one populated by immigrants, minorities, people with dark skin and, yes — cover them with tarps! — women?

I say this as a person who believes private, invitation-only clubs — be they poker clubs, knitting clubs, book clubs, golf clubs — have the right to exist and be protected under law. As long as they are not publicly funded and do not exist, as Burk correctly stated, as ‘‘de facto public institutions.’’ Augusta National was such because of its influence in the world of power and its prominence as a major stop on the PGA Tour.  For years, Finchem and his underlings said the only reason the Tour didn’t apply its fairness and anti-discrimination guidelines to Augusta was because the place was too ‘‘important.’’

Talk about mealy-mouthed.  Nobody wanted to be on the bad side of Augusta, and nobody had the eggs to blow up hypocrisy. Such is the stuff American business and political leadership is made of.  But you already knew this.

So now two women have joined the gang green. 

Whoop-ee.

I don’t know if I like Augusta any more than I did before. You or I can’t get in there. It’s still invitation only.  For people who are more connected, wealthier, cooler than we.

It never has been about golf.  Like every elite private club, it’s about whom you keep out. Awhile back, Hootie even admitted it wasn’t about the beautiful course, but the four annual parties for members only. Think power and martinis.

In fact, Augusta needs women more than they need it. There are more women than men in college, medical school, law school and just about every other educational institution in this country. Men and boys are gradually slipping into that realm where hormones and ignorance get trumped by knowledge and skill.  And, no, hitting a 350-yard tee shot doesn’t count for much.

I was a little shocked when even former protester Burk said, ‘‘If they offer me a membership, I will certainly accept it.’’

Really? That’s all it’s about?  Getting in with the in crowd?

I actually wish Rice and Moore had told the inviters to shove it. Tell them the women have plenty of golf clubs they can join. Let the old guys twist in the wind a little. Let them be like Civil War actors, re-enacting struggles from another century.

Because, trust me, someday — with the way power and leadership are changing in our country — Augusta  National won’t be inviting women to join, it’ll be begging them to.



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