Out of the Rough: Do the reasons matter for Augusta National?

Billy Payne must be a student of history.

The Chairman of Augusta National admitted the first two female members on Monday. Two days after the 92-year anniversary of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote, Payne and Augusta National furthered women's rights.

Of course, they didn't, but Monday's development was significant.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina business woman Darla Moore are members. Just nine years after Martha Burk's fruitless protests, and women are members.

"Oh my God. We won," Burk told the Associated Press.

That's a broad interpretation of victory by Burk.

She put the wheels in motion, but this year's State of the Masters press conference with Payne seemed to be the impetus for change.

Traditionally, Augusta National offered memberships to the CEOs of corporate sponsors of the Masters. IBM's CEO was named Virginia Rommetty.

Being a woman, the ugly tradition of exclusion superceded the one of IBM's chief getting a green jacket.

Payne fielded many questions on the subject this past April.

"Is it possible to elaborate further on why membership for Mrs.Rometty wouldn't be considered, just to give us a little more spiel on that?"

"Don't you think it would send a wonderful message to young girls around the world if they knew that one day they could join this very famous golf club?"

And, there was this beauty.

"As a grandfather, what would you say to granddaughters? How would you explain leading a club that does not include female membership?"

Payne side-stepped them all with the skill of a ballerina. He was more uncomfortable than a husband trying to tell his wife he lost his wedding ring at a gentleman's club.

Were these questions the advent of female membership?

That's impossible to answer, but one could see how the awkwardness would lead to an easy solution - eliminate what's causing us this consternation.

But the men at Augusta National have never been that way. When Burk led protests years ago, the club's response was to air the Masters broadcast without commercials so companies wouldn't have to make tough decisions.

Payne's deliberately avoiding of this year's questions regarding Rommetty also made one think this decision was not forthcoming.

It's reasonable to think that Payne and the other Augusta bigwigs just decided it was time. It is easy to mock a decision that is decades too late, but it's done now.

And let it be done.

Granted, they are late to the party, but just accept that they showed up.

Augusta National, legally, never had to admit a woman member. It is a private club and entitled to allow whomever they want.

That argument always seemed silly. Aren't there higher imperatives than just doing what's legally acceptable? Penn State comes to mind a little here.

Augusta National finally did it. There's no need for trumpets or a parade. It would demean Sec. Rice and Ms. Moore. It would demean all women to treat this as a huge deal.

Does the reason behind this mind-set change even matter? Isn't this something where the end result matters more than anything?

Fore please, Secretary Condoleezza Rice now driving ...


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