Columns, Opinion

METCALF: Augusta?s he-man woman-haters club

Did you know that Augusta National, the location of the Masters &-&- and the place where Tiger Woods is set to make his dramatic return &-&- doesn’t allow women to be members? That’s right: like the Little Rascals, these boys steadfastly maintain their own private he-man woman-haters club.

It’s only a little bit ironic that Woods picked this location to return to golf.

In case you forgot, Woods has humiliated his wife. Also, he allegedly made comments to Joslyn James that made me blush, and he left countless other women with the title of “one of Tiger’s mistresses.” Yet, he decides to make his much publicized return at the place that practically frames the glass ceiling.

Founded in 1933, Augusta National has a membership list that consists of some of the most powerful men in the country, including Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and countless CEOs, senators and governors. The first black man was admitted in 1990, seven years before Woods would win his first Masters.

In 2002, Martha Burk, who was then chairwoman of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, led a protest to challenge the policy at Augusta, creating a small media storm. Woods even addressed the problem.

“I think there should be women members,” Woods told reporters at the time. “But it’s not up to me, I don’t have voting rights; I’m just an honorary member.”

Woods probably didn’t want to alienate any of his female fans, so he said the politically correct thing. However, he hasn’t said a thing about women at Augusta leading up this week’s Masters. Granted, he’s already offended most of the women in this country, not to mention a lot of men, too. But wouldn’t it be a great public relations move to stand up and say, “this is wrong, Augusta National should allow women.”

It’s not all that shocking that Woods cheated on his wife with a bunch of bimbos, but if he is going to attempt to recreate a clean-cut, determined image, he should start the moral baptism immediately.

It’s true that Augusta National is a private club that has every right to set its own policy. In 2002, when major controversy over the issue arose, then course chairman Hootie Johnson defended the policy on the grounds of male camaraderie and a rich history of men achieving companionship through sports.

Yet this argument fails to note that the golf course is a breeding ground for business deals. Inviting someone to your golf club to play is a great way to introduce yourself, to learn about someone and to influence them on your newest proposition. What could be more enticing for a businessman than to be invited to the most exclusive golf club in the world?

In 1990 the PGA Tour required private clubs to demonstrate that their membership policies are not discriminatory against women or minorities. However, the Masters is not a PGA Tour event; it is its own entity. Yet shortly after the ruling, Augusta did invite its first black member. At the time, the club had been looking for a black man to join the club, according to a statement to The New York Times by then-chairman Hord Hardin.

“I know that sounds like something we made up,” he said. “But we have just quietly tried to find the right guy and invite him to join. Certainly the climate has changed. . . . When corporate America says it isn’t going to be involved in television coverage, well, that wasn’t the policy until two weeks ago,” Hardin said. There was obviously some worry that the Masters wouldn’t be televised unless they made some concessions.

Guess what Tiger Woods? You are golf’s television coverage. You are the reason people are going to watch this year’s Masters. Your ability and your fallibility are why people care.

Over the course of Woods’ career, purses in golf tournaments grew by an average of 400 percent, according to a New York Times report titled “The Tiger Bubble.” Tournaments that he doesn’t play in seemingly disappear, corporate sponsors fold and television audiences dwindle. Tiger Woods is professional golf as it is today.
Despite this, he shirks social issues. He never talks about race or class issues. Maybe he was just too busy with all those chicks. But now he has a unique opportunity to stand up for a segment of his fan base that he may never get back: women.

Is there really not a woman in the world who is successful enough to warrant membership to Augusta? How about Abigail Johnson &- she only has a Harvard MBA, oversees $650 billion for Fidelity investments and is worth $8.5 billion. Or maybe Diane Hendricks, who started her first company in 1982 and is now chairman of ABC Supply, the largest wholesale distributor of roofing materials in the country, and is worth $2.5 billion, according to Forbes Magazine.

Sure, it might not seem like a big deal that Augusta doesn’t allow women to the overwhelmingly male golf fan base, but it would represent a symbolic victory for women and a step in the right direction for a disgraced Tiger Woods.

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