Augusta’s Acceptance of Women Is a Token Move

The good old boys are still safe in their clubhouse.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore are just about the luckiest little gals on the fairway, if you ask me.

In what is surely the pinnacle of their careers, Rice and Moore have been accepted as the first-ever female members of Augusta National Country Club, hallowed home of the Masters tournament. Club chairman Billy Payne made the announcement yesterday.

I don’t know about you, but I can barely contain my excitement at the prospect of two women—one of them black!—teeing it up at Augusta. That kind of breakthrough calls for a mint julep and two choruses of “Pick a Bale of Cotton.”

Did I mention that the club is built on a former plantation?

Augusta National traditionalists, many of whom have Confederate money stashed in their attics, no doubt will decry the inclusion of females. The mere thought of estrogen poisoning what was once pure testosterone stock makes their heads explode. A minor explosion, granted, but an explosion nonetheless.

What’s next, they wonder—Tampon dispensers in the clubhouse? Membership outreach for lesbians? Changing the name of the tournament from Masters to Mistresses?

Dear Lord, we beseech thee to protect us from women who mess with our putters.

It took the good old boys of Augusta National a mere 80 years to open their secret membership rolls to women—all two of them. And they did it only because unremitting public pressure forced them, kicking and screaming, into the 20th century. No, that is not a typo.

Blacks have suffered even more humiliation at Augusta. In 1975, when Lee Elder became the first African-American to win the Masters, it would take another 15 years before the club would admit its first black playing member.

Caddies, on the other hand, were required to be black. As Clifford Roberts, club co-founder and longtime Masters chairman, once famously said: “As long as I’m alive, golfers will be white, and caddies will be black.” He died in 1977.

In 2002, Roberts’s successor, Hootie Johnson, took an equally memorable stand against feminist leader Martha Burk. Females might touch the Holy Grail of golfdom someday, he said, “but not at the point of a bayonet.”

Sponsors boycotted CBS’s Masters telecast for two years. Several high-profile members quit. Augusta National did not budge. Many speculate that the tipping point was Virginia Rometty’s appointment as president and CEO of IBM, effective January 1st.

IBM is a major corporate sponsor of the Masters. Given that Rometty’s four predecessors had all been members of Augusta National, something had to give. In the court of public opinion, the club could no longer win. It was on the wrong side of history. Again.

Forgive me if I don’t fully rejoice in this “victory” for women. It’s so obviously token, so begrudgingly given, so transparently insincere, I’m underwhelmed.

Still, two women will be able to enter the clubhouse when the season opens in October. That is a beginning, at least.