COMMENTARY | There was a time when even Tiger Woods couldn't have been a member at Augusta National Golf Club - unfortunately, the club still hasn't progressed far beyond that.
Tolerance isn't a word that's often associated with the history of golf in the United States, and no example of this fact is more apparent today than at Augusta, where women are still denied membership at the historic club.
Now, in a turn of events that will at the very least stir the debate once again, IBM named a female, Virginia M. Rometty, its CEO on January 1, 2012. This is significant because Augusta National has traditionally invited the sitting CEO of IBM, one of the tournament's biggest sponsors, to become a member each year. The question now is this: Will the club purposefully not invite Rometty to membership because of this long-standing tradition?
While a private club has the right to to be exclusive, the current social climate in the U.S. dictates that discrimination is just plain wrong. It took years for African-American players to be able to walk the sacred grounds of Amen Corner, and while women can play the course as guests or socialize as spouses, the very spirit of this outdated tradition remains backwards.
Leave it to Augusta National to hang on to its traditions, however ridiculous they may be. At this point, the decision-makers within the walls of the clubhouse are almost certainly hanging on to their twisted values out of pure stubbornness, even though they know deep down what the right course of action is.
As long as the most infamous club in the United States continues to hold its country's old and flawed set of values that every other sport has moved miles away from, golf will suffer. As much as the members at Augusta National refuse to admit it, one of the most prominent and notable courses in the world has failed its own sport by perpetuating this antiquated attitude.
Golf in America is in a dismal state right now from an economic standpoint. Rounds played by the general public are down considerably from more prosperous times in the middle '00s. The guardians of the game have a responsibility to make sure its accessible to all. Augusta National is not obligated by law to open its doors everyone, but in spirit, women should clearly have the same opportunities a man would.
Imagine a young girl watching The Masters with her parents, captivated by the plush greens and beautiful landscape, voicing her desire to become a member there one day and play whenever she wanted. The fact that those parents still must explain that it would be impossible for her to join the club is incredible.
Maybe the folks at Augusta will do the right thing and finally invite a woman to be a member there. The fact that Rometty has earned it by becoming CEO should make them feel a little better about the choice and mitigate any feelings that protesters, most of the general public, and all other reasonable onlookers have "won".
That's what it's all about anyway, and now, more than ever, the board has an out to make progress and save face.
Hopefully, this won't be a topic for discussion for much longer, and it would make an awful nice story surrounding what is shaping up to be yet another great Masters Tournament in 2012.
Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and a PGA professional and follows the PGA TOUR. Follow Michael on Twitter: @MikeJonesTweets
- Augusta National Golf Club