Augusta National apologizes for denying locker room access to female reporter

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Oh, Augusta National. We were so close, so close to getting out of Masters weekend with a good feeling about you and your "old-fashioned" ways, enjoying the glow of a new major champion and a fine week of golf, when this happened:

That's a tweet from Tara Sullivan of the Bergen Record newspaper. She was apparently told she couldn't come into the locker room to interview the players, simply because she was a woman.

That's not something you want to do in these days of instant information; within minutes, Sullivan's story was picked up and spread around the world, and let's just say there weren't a whole lot of pro-Augusta posts from anyone with any comprehension of how the media works. (Women are "allowed" in locker rooms in every other major sport, and almost everyone involved conducts themselves with professionalism.)

Naturally, this is a story because of Augusta National's less-than-sterling history with including anyone who's not white and male within its ranks. The club only inducted its first black member in 1990, and still has no female members. While that's certainly the club's right, and while it technically has the legal right to bar anyone from any portion of its premises -- this is private property we're talking about, after all -- to deny a member of the accredited media access to a part of the clubhouse simply because of her gender isn't just unconscionable, it's jaw-droppingly foolish.

Apparently someone in the Augusta National hierarchy realized this, because within an hour Masters spokesman Steve Ethun spoke to Sullivan and, in Sullivan's words, indicated that "It was a complete misunderstanding by the tournament week security, and you should have rightfully been given access per the standard practices of major sporting events."

You know what? I can totally believe that. I can totally buy that some temporary security guard high on the scent of azaleas and privilege decided to make sure this young lady knew her place ... and it wasn't among the menfolk. (Interestingly,  our own Dan Wetzel reported that one of the two security guards who stopped Sullivan was a woman. Curiouser and curiouser.)

"This was a complete mistake," Ethun added, according to Pro Golf Talk. "It was the enforcement of a policy that does not exist."

Credit to Augusta National for stepping up and immediately addressing this head-on. Thing is, as with every other apology, no matter how heartfelt, the explanation won't reach nearly as many people as the original news, and of those it does reach, there will be plenty who don't believe it's sincere. For that, and for the continuing perception that it's a relic of a mindset long past, Augusta National has no one to blame but itself.

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