Augusta National Golf Club just admitted two female women into its ranks. But why are so many people hailing it as a victory for women? Did women and the so-called Women’s Movement really need authentication by an effete old boy’s network of stodgy businessmen? On the surface it would appear that they have finally put to rest the ghost of the old south and are ready to honor the role women are playing in our society; and there may be some of that among the membership (Warren Buffet’s statement earlier this year is a case in point). But the fact that this decision took so long despite so much public debate and outcry can also be viewed as an attempt to stem the rising tide of a public relations flood, particularly in the wake of last year’s pointed questions by the media. It appears to spring more from a need to switch off the public spotlight on its outmoded and chauvinistic policies than from a willingness to welcome women as equals.
It was somewhat disheartening to listen to so many famous female golfers sycophantically laud the decision by suggesting that it was time for such a deed to occur—if they really thought the time had come, where were their voices all these years? Surely they didn’t think that THIS year, eight decades after the institution of the club, was absolutely the right time? Even media scrutiny was muted, probably because our self-styled fearless members of the fourth estate (with a few exceptions) were terrified of being banned from the Master’s tournament in April! Remember, this is the club that forced CBS to exclude commentator Gary McCord from its news team because he had the temerity to suggest that the 17th green was so fast it seemed to be “bikini-waxed,” and that “body bags” were located behind the green for players who missed their shots! The venerable Jack Whittaker never returned because he referred to the crowds as a “mob” rather than “the patrons.” I suppose free speech is not as much a part of their lexicon as is privacy!! So every year we now have the obsequious Jim Nantz and his risible reverend tones bowing and scraping before the Master’s committee! It’s really interesting how the great media, like all bullies, cowers and trembles before a threat!
Privacy. That great American pursuit. We seem to treasure our privacy more than anything else, even going to inordinate lengths to protect it. Or do we? Isn’t it hypocritical to say that private clubs may exclude anyone based on gender or race (Augusta admitted its first African American member in 1990!!!) at the same time that we make public decisions about women’s bodies, private sexual behavior, tax returns, and the lives of celebrities?! It is legal to have a private club. So what? There was also a time when it was legal to deny women and minorities the right to vote!! But when I heard over and over that Augusta National was within its rights to exclude women I couldn’t help wondering if there’s a social contract that should override facile explanations of legality. When you run a tournament as important as the Master’s on a course as glorious as Augusta National you cease, in a sense, to be a private entity, for your existence, like all great sporting events, depends on public support and goodwill; on the money generated from sponsors (whose customers include women) and the ticket-paying public (also including women). Hiding behind a technicality makes a far-reaching statement about your place in this modern society and is a disservice to collected efforts the world over to achieve gender equality.
In my view the train left long ago. It isn’t a matter of better late than never, or “it’s about time,” because that time has long since passed. The Men in Green missed the boat and their smarmy efforts to redress the situation are too little much too late! Their overseas cousins The Royal and Ancient Golf Club, one of golf’s governing bodies, is a male-only enclave. This is the club that makes the rules of golf for all players, INCLUDING WOMEN GOLFERS, and no woman is a member!! It’s almost an inescapable fact that these two clubs, in the UK and the Deep South, who constantly tout allegiance to their “heritage,” are really decaying pillars of colonialism, sexism, exclusion, and a segregationist society! The stench of their past will inexorably persist decades into their future, whatever else they do, for the sins of the fathers inevitably are visited upon the sons!