What Augusta's Decision Means
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Do you expect other male-only clubs in the United States to follow suit, or is this an isolated case?
Frankly, there is only one Augusta National because there is only one Masters. The other all-male golf clubs in the United States number under 25 and do not hold tournaments of this nature. Those that did were told by the PGA Tour, the USGA, the PGA of America and the LPGA to change their bylaws and, if they refused, they lost their professional tournaments years ago. (Remember Butler National in Illinois, the longtime site of the PGA Tour's Western Open? The club gave up the tournament rather than admit women.) The other clubs are under the radar and deserve to stay that way.
You met some of the older gentlemen who ran these clubs: Hall Thompson, Hord Hardin, Hootie Johnson. Were they just products of a previous time?
The three share a common Southern heritage. They are also products of their time. In their world a female could never become the head of IBM. It wasn't done. They also share a social etiquette that defined a woman's place. And women accepted that place. The time they grew up in also defined the place of an African-American male. Remember, until the 1960s many private clubs had a Caucasian-only clause in their bylaws. Keeping them out was legal for them. So they have had to overcome a lot to get to this week. I give Billy Payne, who well understands the policies of the Olympics, great credit for finally succeeding, however belatedly.
Did Martha Burk, who led a protest in 2003, help or hurt the cause?
I think Burk set back the process by years. Yes, she spoke her mind to the world's press and caused the corporate elite within Augusta's membership to squirm, but her style undermined her cause. Her protests at the outset were loud, pushy and unrelenting, good for some events but definitely not the tone or style Augusta National would respond to. Johnson characterized Burk's approach as "offensive and coercive," and under his watch nothing changed. Nor would it for 10 years.
At the same time Hootie's reaction showed that Augusta National had no clue how to handle her. Burk, then chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations, put on a small demonstration at Augusta in 2003 that was best suited for Washington. There was no way Johnson would respond to her demands; that's simply not how he operated, regardless of the publicity. What he did was become defiant, inflaming her more. Augusta needed public-relations counseling--if Hootie would have listened--before he issued his statement that Augusta National would not admit women "at the point of a bayonet."
In the end, Burk's crusade gave Augusta National's policies worldwide review, and that made a number of members uncomfortable. But worldwide review didn't matter to Johnson. Hootie should have taken his bayonet statement and his comparisons to the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and other single-sex institutions and put them in a drawer to re-read in the light of morning. He was defiant, saying the club had "a moral and legal right to organize our clubs the way we wish." For him it was the club, not the Masters that was front and center. He ignited the controversy; she kept it going, but eventually even Burk disappeared. Until this week.
Payne's attempt to include golf in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, over which he presided, and hold a new Olympic golf event at Augusta National was largely thwarted by the club's exclusionary practices toward women and its past racial practices. Is he now the hero or agent of the inevitable?
I've never met or talked to Billy Payne, but I know well the nature of the Olympics and what kind of person it takes to lead so diverse a group. He has the skill-set for leading change. I would not use the word hero. I think he had a plan from the outset and found a way to put Augusta's house in order. To do so he had to involve Johnson and persuade him the time was now. To continue the all-male practice would risk losing IBM and perhaps other sponsors, a scenario that would be deadly to the Masters and to golf long-term.
According to some reports Rice and Moore were on the admissions list by the end of his first year at Augusta National. But there they sat. I do not believe change was inevitable. Outside forces had to intervene to give Payne the opportunity to act. But he was ready when the moment arrived. Historically Augusta does not act until forced to. The Rometty dilemma had to be resolved. Payne had to convince Johnson and get his approval or face continuing unrest in American golf.
We understand that Hootie "sponsored" Darla Moore, an old family friend and reportedly a donor of $70 million to his alma mater, the University of South Carolina. It certainly softened the blow to his ego, but does it help rehabilitate Hootie's image?
Sometimes a person makes a statement so stunning and so revealing of his core beliefs that it comes to define the person. Back in 2002 Johnson uttered words that came to define the club's core value structure as well as his own. His bayonet statement will be quoted in his obituary, perhaps high up in his obituary. I don't think his image will be easily rehabilitated, but he might fare better in the South.
Why was this the right thing to do?
It was the right thing to do because the Masters is the public face of golf, as Susan Reed told me this week. In this nation we believe in equality at the venue where a club hosts a major public sporting event. Finally Augusta National has accepted the rules of golf's governing bodies, which until this week could not have held one of their tournaments at Augusta National. It was a grueling process to observe, but Payne finally got his hole-in-one. Or two.