Augusta National Golf Club has fooled several people this week.
The entire country has sent a lot of attention towards the home of the Masters throughout the past couple days. As you have probably heard, the illustrious and extremely exclusive club is finally accepting its first female members.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and business executive Darla Moore, the first women to gain membership to Augusta, may be rejoicing about this historic moment, but they shouldn’t be.
While America has been celebrating about tearing down another equality barrier, I merely shake my head.
Am I sexist? No.
Do I disagree with Augusta’s decision to finally accept women into the club after an 80-year history? Not one bit.
My problem with this glorification of Augusta National lies with its faulty reasoning for finally expanding the club’s membership base:
Don’t let chairman Billy Payne fool you when he says “This is a joyous occasion.” He’s not talking about Rice and Moore being accepted into the club.
Rather, Payne is pleased because he will no longer have to worry about large businesses and corporations pulling their sponsorship from Augusta National and the Masters tournament.
Think that’s a ludicrous statement? Take this into consideration:
One of the Masters most lucrative business partners and largest sponsors is IBM, a company that recently had a change at the company’s CEO position. Her name? Virginia Rommety.
While I cannot say one way or another whether IBM would have pulled its affiliation with Augusta if the no-women policy had not be changed, I can say that IBM’s CEO typically gets a free membership to the club. Can you imagine the possible backlash if Rommety wasn’t offered a membership?
With the economic recession and companies tightening up their marketing and partnership dollars, this a situation that everyone affiliated with Augusta wanted to avoid.
If this was a prestigious golf club in Ohio with the same restrictions, not dependent on sponsorships or public image, Rice and Moore would still be waiting for their invitation.
Still not convinced?
If this was such a “joyous occasion” as Payne suggested, why was there no ribbon cutting? Why wasn’t there a huge announcement made with several television cameras around (if there was, I failed to see any live coverage)? Why were there no PGA or LPGA golfers invited to celebrate the moment?
Is it just because Augusta likes to do things in a secretive, nonchalant manner?
Or is it because the hierarchy of the golf club has had to swallow its pride, bare a fake smile and utter a few nice words to keep its sponsors happy?
I’ll take option number two.
If this had occurred in any other circumstance, in a thriving economy and the head of IBM was still a male member of Augusta, I’d be much more at ease with the reason why women can now gain membership to the club.
While I think steps towards equality are essential to obtaining a more just society, money shouldn’t lie behind the actions.
While it is fine to be happy that women now have the opportunity to obtain a membership to one of the most exclusive golf clubs in America, Augusta should not be celebrated as a place that took a stand and finally “saw the light.”
Augusta National didn’t see the light….it just saw its cash flow diminishing.
This will forever be an historic moment in golf, sports and America, but unfortunately, it will be in the history books for all the wrong reasons.