William "Hootie" Johnson, chairman of Augusta National. Martha Burke, head of the National Council of Women's Organizations. Hero. Heroine. Together, this odd couple has harmoniously worked together to remove obnoxious, repetitive commercials from my television. And during my favorite sporting event of the year, no less, the Masters! I had to suffer through a four-hour college football game the other night that featured more commercial timeouts than touchdowns. Perhaps we can sick Hootie and Martha on the NCAA next.
What's that you say? This "no women members at Augusta National" issue cuts much deeper than advertising? It goes to the very root of our individual, God-given Constitutional rights? And as a golf writer and member of the working press, I have to take a side?
Piece of cake. I side with Hootie, the one man with enough stones to stand up to political correctness and spit in its general direction. Augusta National has never had a woman member in its 69-year history, and didn't admit its first African American member until 1990. So what? Folks, it is a private club, and it is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America.
Where did this notion come from that because the club hosts a PGA Tour event that it is subject to some ad hoc equal opportunity membership requirement? I'll tell you where it came from: an undercurrent of misplaced feminism that began with a few columns in a few newspapers, spilt over onto Tiger Woods plate, and then was picked up on by an intelligent female who's organization claims to have the clout to get things done.
Imagine, all the brainpower at the NCWO and they hone in on this. Are you kidding me? Women still make less than men in the workplace, and ridiculously underrepresented in politics, and Burke and her band of Simone De Beauvoir toting cronies choose to go after Hootie and the boys (better than them going after Hootie and the Blowfish, I suppose)? This is like the Bush administration fixating on free trade with Costa Rica while Saddam Hussein stockpiles nukes under our noses.
Political correctness, run amok, and grandstanding. That is all that this is.
Besides, I wonder how integrated the good 'ol NCOW is? I wonder how many men serve in positions of power in that egalitarian organization? Here's how many: zero. How do I know this? I checked, and so can you at their website, www.womensorganizations.org. Just look at the steering committee names.
The sad thing is that Augusta National, according to Johnson, was well on its way to admitting its first female member. Believe Johnson when he says that the search, for all intensive purposes, is now off. No one, as Johnson told the media in a three-page statement earlier this summer, "likes to be bullied."
This entire thing should have been handled behind closed doors, but instead it has turned into an embarrassing debacle for both sides. No matter what is written here or elsewhere, one faction will see Johnson and the Men of the Masters as the worst kind of elitist Cro-Magnons. Another faction will see Burke as a parading pundit with a hidden agenda and some kind of vendetta against men.
Some people think Tiger is a cop-out, just as they thought Nicklaus was a cop-out in his salad days when he didn't speak out for equal rights for black golfers. Others, myself included, don't believe that Tiger's status as the best player in the world and his genealogical makeup should make him a de facto spokesman for the game of golf.
That is one of the great things about these types of debates; there are two sides and no middle ground. Kind of makes you wonder which side PGA Commissioner Tim Finchem is on, doesn't it?
September 9, 2002