The Augusta National question

So about three weeks ago the annual Masters Tournament was held in Augusta. This year, however, the tournament was surrounded by an additional layer of controversy not unlike what happened back in 2002. I know I am a little late in bringing this subject up, but better late than never.

For a brief recap, the Masters was protested in 2002 by a group led by Martha Burke. The issue was the fact that there were no women members of Augusta National Golf Club. The protest that was held was hardly successful. Flash forward to 2012, and the issue and Martha Burke have resurfaced. Only this time there was an additional element.

IBM is a long time sponsor of the Masters, and Augusta National has granted membership to IBM’s previous CEOs. IBM’s current CEO is a woman named Virginia Rometty. And Augusta National is still an all-male golf club.

I am not here to start a debate. I just have a hard time seeing the issue here. Augusta National is a private club. As a private organization, it has the right to set its own policies up to and including membership. If a private organization wants to change/update its policies, great. If it thinks the rules it has in place are satisfactory, that is also its prerogative. (Yes, I channeled a little Ron Swanson there…) But the whole point of a private organization is that it sets its own rules and shouldn’t have to have its policies dictated to it by outside sources. This fact seems to be lost on Martha Burke.

In all of this, did anyone stop to ask Mrs. Rometty‘s opinion? Does she even care to be a member of Augusta National? Does she even play golf? If I were her, as CEO of a major corporation, I would be somewhat offended if someone was trying to draft me into their pet cause. Maybe she was asked, and I am just uninformed.

Will Augusta National ever open its doors to female membership? Maybe. Will an all-woman’s college open its doors to men? I’m not holding my breath. But if either of them does, it should be on their own terms. Otherwise, what is the point of having a private club, or college for that matter? If said club is not doing anything illegal, immoral, or unethical, then forcing that organization to change based on a differing set of values is just wrong.



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4 responses to “The Augusta National question

  1. williamwickey

    It’s an interesting question.

    It wasn’t all that long ago – 7 years before TIger won his first green jacket – that Augusta National allowed is first African-American member.

    I agree that a private club should be able to dictate its membership on whatever terms it likes. I also think that there are important distinctions. between the race question and the gender question.

    However, Augusta National’s situation is complicated by hosting Masters tournament. What would happen if the PGA admits a female player, she qualifies and wins the Masters? How would CBS and the rest of the sponsors react? It’s an unlikely, but interesting hypothetical.

    Just the other day, I saw that Obama said he wants to join.

  2. cameronellis88

    I agree with most of your argument Fred. The only problem is the CEO of IBM is an avid golfer. It kind of puts Augusta National in a predicament that one of their largest sponsor’s CEO can’t play there. I think it is a lose lose for the CEO because she is going to get railed if she continues to support a place that won’t let her play or get railed for taking IBM’s sponsorship, in protest, away from the Master’s

    I bet it changes eventually, but a private organization should be able to do what it wants.

  3. I think the problem is Fred. The arguemt only arises during the Masters, not before or after. I think it will eventually change, but probably nor for another couple of years.

  4. Ning Huang

    Although I’m not quite familiar with the rules of club in U.S., I appreciate the last sentence you have mentioned “If said club is not doing anything illegal, immoral, or unethical, then forcing that organization to change based on a differing set of values is just wrong”, I believe that we just hold an optimistic opinion and everything will change.

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