The Augusta National Golf Club finds itself in a very awkward situation this week as it hosts the 76th Masters Tournament. The dilemma it faces stems from the club’s policy of accepting only men as members.
A move to end the policy was mounted in 2003 by the chairman of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, but the protest failed. But now it appears that it may be harder than ever to keep women out, especially one woman: Virginia M. Romnetty, who was named the new chief executive officer of International Business Machines Corp. in October.
IBM is one of three major corporate sponsors of the Masters, and it’s been traditional for the men who run the sponsoring companies, including Exxon and AT&T, to be extended invitations to join Augusta National. And although Ms. Romnetty doesn’t play golf frequently, she does consider herself a golfer.
Neither she nor the club, whose members include corporate titans such as Warren Buffett and T. Boone Pickens, has said much publicly about the newly percolating controversy. IBM, however, could face difficulty in explaining to customers how it can sponsor an event hosted by a club that won’t invite its CEO to join.
It’s conceivable that behind Augusta National’s tightly closed doors, a move is already in the works to usher Romnetty into the fold. Be that as it may, just adding one woman to the membership wouldn’t seem the proper way to open up this male bastion.
To do it right, wouldn’t it be better to add a group of women? Here are a dozen whose personal stature and golfing backgrounds make them logical candidates:
Before joining the LPGA tour in 1974, the Savannah, Ga., native became the only player to ever win the US Junior Girls Championship three times, doing it consecutively, beginning in 1969. Before that, however, her passion for the sport was fueled by attending the 1966 Masters in nearby Augusta. She collected many player autographs, including that of Ben Hogan, and says she still has the ticket stubs from the tournament. Now a Denver resident, she will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in May in St. Augustine, Fla.
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