News alert! Breaking news! Augusta National Golf Club has admitted two women as members after 80 years of being an all-male club.
Yes, the story is worthy of news coverage, especially since 2002, when Martha Burk pushed the issue of the ban on female members into the public discourse with her protest at the Masters Tournament, one of the country’s most revered sporting events.
“These accomplished women share our passion for the game of golf and both are well known and respected by our membership,” Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne said in a statement. “It will be a proud moment when we present Condoleezza and Darla their green jackets when the club opens this fall.”
Burk said: “It’s about 10 years too late for the boys to come into the 20th century, never mind the 21st century. But it’s a milestone for women in business.”
The announcement that former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and business executive Darla Moore accepted invitations to join the golf club somehow feels anticlimactic. In 2012, it just seems anachronistic that women were barred from the private club just because of their sex. Women have been playing more than respectable games of golf for decades. But the real importance of golf lies not in the playing of the game but in the relationships that are nurtured on the greens and the business deals that get worked out in a few hours spent in a lush environment away from the prying eyes of the public.
Augusta National, one of the most beautiful golf clubs in the country, has a membership that includes many of the nation’s power brokers. The idea that Rice and Moore, who were considered for membership for the past five years, were deemed unworthy simply because they are women would be laughable if it were not so emblematic of some resistant pockets of outdated thinking.
Although women still face barriers, they have not been sitting around just waiting to be invited in. Even without the connections that a place like Augusta National Golf Club can provide, women are achieving in business, politics and sports. Three women sit on the Supreme Court of the United States. Three women have been secretary of state, a woman has been speaker of the House, women head major corporations. (When Ginni Rometty became president and chief executive of IBM, many wondered if Augusta National would offer her the membership that traditionally had gone to the chief executive of the company.)
And women have more than made their mark in sports. In the Summer Olympics, women brought home the bulk of the gold medals awarded to the U.S. team.
Instead of congratulating Augusta National for opening membership to women, it should be asked, “What took you so long?” It’s one thing to take a leadership position on the question of equality but another thing to just go along with a movement that has gained momentum. With so many movers and shakers among its members, Augusta’s lack of leadership in this area is astonishing. Now that women will be part of the mix, perhaps the golf club will become more than a follower. Wouldn’t that be news?