Remember all that talk about Tiger Woods opening doors in the world of golf? Turns out it was nothing more than lip service.
For proof, check out the latest shenanigans at Augusta National, where the National Council of Women's Organizations is pressuring the private club to admit female members.
Women can travel into space, serve in the President's Cabinet, and run multi-million dollar companies, but membership at Augusta National is still a pipe dream? Please. This isn't a golf issue, it's common sense. If golf really wants to be all-inclusive, Augusta National will change its position tomorrow.
Club officials will point to other private clubs and hide behind their constitutional rights, but Augusta National is different. The Masters stands for greatness in golf. If Augusta National chairman William "Hootie" Johnson had any real love for the game, he'd capitalize on the situation and announce a new direction for the club and golf as a whole.
Instead, Hootie and his blowhards have decided to remove any pressure from their advertisers by airing the Masters commercial-free next year. Good for them. I'm sure everything will be controversy-free now.
Sure, and Bud Selig is going to be named Man of the Year.
As the Augusta National chairman, Johnson last week responded to the NCWO charges by claiming the 68-year-old club won't be "bullied, threatened or intimidated" by any activists.
To recap, Augusta National has never had a female member, and the club didn't accept its first African-American member until 1990. The club places ridiculous restrictions on its Masters television coverage, and its membership largely consists of stodgy, wealthy white males who haven't put in an honest day's work in years.
Remind me again who's the bully in this situation?
Of course, some would argue that this is much ado about nothing. That we shouldn't care if a few female millionaires gain membership status at Augusta. There are more important issues.
True enough. But this is the one capturing the nation's attention, so you can't blame the NCWO for adding a few more fireworks. When it comes to discrimination of any kind, every fight is important. And Augusta National sure makes for an easy target.
Just look up discrimination in the dictionary and there should be a picture of hallowed Augusta National with several elitist old-school gents in the background. Gary McCord won't be there, but something tells me John Rocker might be an honorary member.
If it weren't so incredulous, it'd almost be funny. But this is 2002. We've seen the positive effects of Title IX and the start of several professional women's leagues. One of the NBA's most promising officials, Violet Palmer, is a woman. She'll probably be asked to work a championship game before Hootie sends her a membership application.
The world's first service club, Rotary International, went 84 years before admitting women for the first time in 1989. Shockingly, the organization survived the change. In fact, Rotary is thriving with more than 90,000 female members, and many serve as leaders of their local groups.
But Hootie is a stubborn Southern gentleman whose recent comments indicate little interest in public perception. His isolated world seemingly consists of Augusta National and nothing else. Rather than blowing off the NCWO, Hootie should be thanking the group for raising the level of dialogue. Instead, he's busy telling everyone to stay out of his sandbox.
Make no mistake. This is all on Hootie. Talk radio is buzzing about how Tiger needs to get front-and-center and become a vocal leader for women everywhere, but that's not his job. While it would be nice to see Tiger take a stronger stance on issues such as this, we shouldn't expect the desire to implement social change from our premier athletes. Real change takes time, and Hootie could serve an important role. It's unfortunate he's not up to the task.
Even more troubling, this episode has proven that golf is not ready to join the 21st century. Open acceptance is catching on everywhere else in this post-9/11 era, but golf is clearly not prepared to move forward.
September 6, 2002