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Augusta National still doesn't like women

AugustNational chalrman Billy Payne sidestepped questions about female membership during news conference Wednesday. | Matt Slocum~AP

Augusta National chalrman Billy Payne sidestepped questions about female membership during a news conference on Wednesday. | Matt Slocum~AP

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Tournament: The 76th Masters.

Dates: Thursday-Sunday.

Site: Augusta National Golf Club.

Length: 7,435 yards. Par: 72.

Field: 96 (with six amateurs).

Defending champion: Charl Schwartzel.

TV: Thursday and Friday, 2-6:30 p.m., ESPN; Saturday, 2:30-6 p.m., Ch. 2; Sunday, 1-6 p.m., Ch. 2.

The Masters: Live Leaderboard

Updated: May 6, 2012 8:23AM

AUGUSTA, Ga. — I can’t imagine why any woman would want to belong to Augusta National Golf Club.

I can’t imagine why any man who watched Augusta chairman Billy Payne stonewall and obfuscate Wednesday on the issue of female membership would want his wife, daughter, sister, mother, friend, mare, doe, filly or Girl Friday within 100 club lengths of joining this place.

For sheer entertainment value, the only thing that matches the beauty of Augusta National is the creepiness of the members wearing the green jackets.

I used to share the indignation of many of my media brothers and sisters on this issue. But after being here so many times, now I just laugh. Who would my fellow writers and broadcasters want to subject to this place? Only an enemy, I would think.

Let these green-coated anachronisms live in the Place That Time Forgot. We’ll visit once a year for the Masters and cackle at them.

Those pushing for female membership see a sliver of hope. The new chief executive officer of IBM is a woman, Ginni Rometty. IBM is one of the Masters’ corporate sponsors, and Augusta National has given memberships to the technology giant’s last four CEOs, all men. Club officials have been mum on Rometty, as well. Is the word “mum’’ allowed inside Augusta National?

Over and over Wednesday, Payne hid behind the assertion that membership issues are private.

Reporters peppered the chairman with broader questions meant to coax him out of his dark hole.

If the club is trying to help grow the game, as he stated Wednesday, wouldn’t it send a positive message to young girls that membership at Augusta might someday be a possibility?

Can’t talk about it, Payne said. A membership issue, he said.

How would he explain to his granddaughter that the club he leads excludes women members?

A membership issue, Payne said.

No, the questioner said, it’s a family issue.

“My conversations with my granddaughters are also personal,’’ Payne said.

Again I ask, dear reader: You’d like to associate with this kind of person?

What would I tell a granddaughter about the ban on female members? I’d tell her that there are a lot of idiots in the world and that Augusta National was carved out of the earth specifically to teach the world that lesson.

I’d tell her that some things are worth fighting for, some aren’t. Ten years ago, I thought this was one of them. Today, I don’t.

Most people understand that, and it’s why you don’t see protests outside the gates of Augusta or boycotts by female golf fans at the Masters. I did hear a street preacher near one of the parking lots yell that “the effeminate among us’’ won’t be that way when they get to heaven. So there’s that.

What’s happening at Augusta National isn’t apartheid. This is a private club that puts on a very public golf tournament. But because it doesn’t answer to the PGA, which requires that its tournaments be played at clubs where both sexes are welcome as members, it can do what it wants. Say what you want about Augusta, but it always does what it wants, consequences be damned.

The last club chairman was named “Hootie.’’ The current one is named “Billy.’’ Really, is there anything else to say?

The world will not be a better place if Augusta National gets a female member for window dressing. The world will be a better place if women get paid as well as men. It will be a better place if sexual assaults decrease. It will be a better place if we eradicate sex trafficking.

But a filthy-rich female teeing it up as a member at one of the world’s most exclusive clubs? Sorry, I won’t ever be able to look at her as Susan B. Anthony holding a TaylorMade.

A middle-aged white man in a green coat sat in front of the media Wednesday looking for all the world like a greeter at an Irish Spring bowl game. In his long preamble, Payne listed the positive changes on display at the club. He even found time to mention the improvements to the tournament’s website.

But changes involving the status of women at Augusta National? No, sir. That’s a subject for members only, and the message was clear: You’re not one of them.

Welcome back to the 1950s, folks. Feel free to walk around and take in the sights. But whatever you do, don’t forget to point and laugh at the silliness.

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