Monday, April 2, 2012

No Longer Masters of Their Domain?

It's Masters Week--and time for a "Tradition Unlike Any Other".  That tradition includes pimento cheese sandwiches (yes, they are kind of gross), not a single blade of grass out of place and the presentation of the coveted Green Jacket to the winner.

One Masters tradition, however, could be coming to an end this week.  For years, IBM has been a "corporate partner" of August National Golf Club--meaning it gets a precious few minutes of advertising durnig the golf tournament every year--for a very steep price.  In exchange, the CEO of IBM has been given membership in the very exclusive club.  Well recently, IBM elected a woman--Virginia Rommety--as its new CEO.  This could be very uncomfortable for Augusta National--as they have had a strict "No Women Allowed" policy since it was founded back in the 1930's.

You may recall, this became an issue a few years ago when Martha Burk demanded a boycott of the Masters because they didn't have a female member.  Her on-site protest fizzled out--leading to the absolute funniest moment in Masters history as she and her handful of protesters were forced to stand in a parking lot about a mile away from the Club and some guy showed up with a sign reading "Martha Burk: Go Iron My Pants".  The Club also protected its sponsors from the controversy by simply not having any advertising that year (giving us the GREATEST SPORTS BROADCAST IN HISTORY!)

The one thing that has always tainted the Masters for me has been the membership at Augusta National.  They didn't have an African-American member until the mid-1990's--a few years after Tiger Woods became the first black man to win the tournament.  In a way, the kind of attitudes that were featured in "The Help" still permeate the membership in Augusta.  "This is the kind of place where everyone knows their place."

Chairman Billy Payne holds a press conference on the Tuesday of Masters Week every year.  It will be interesting to see if he will drag Augusta National kicking and screaming a bit further into the 20th century by extending a membership to Mrs Rommety.  I just hope she doesn't expect them to put in women's tees.

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