Augusta National Faces an Enormous Dilemma

By Carl Conrad

Most people are aware that one of the majors on the PGA Tour, The Masters, and its host, Augusta National Golf Club are steeped in tradition.  Augusta National is run more like a skull and bones fraternity than a country club, where its members wear green jackets and the secrecy of annual fees resembles that of the locations of nuclear missile silos.  The membership list is a who’s who of powerful people, with the likes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett holding membership cards.

It is this tradition that has put Augusta National in quite the conundrum.  The club has historically granted membership to the sitting CEO of IBM (International Business Machines), one of the world leaders in its field.  On January 1st of this year, IBM announced Virginia “Ginni” Rometty would take the duties and become the new CEO of IBM.  No big deal, right?  Lots of companies have women CEO’s.  For IBM, it isn’t a big deal.  For Augusta National, however….well that’s another story.

Augusta National, with their traditions and secrets, do not allow women to be members of the club.  There is essentially a “no girls allowed” sign at the front gate.  Seeing as how Rometty is only the 9th CEO of IBM ever, Augusta National probably did not expect to be put in this position.

It’s understandable that a private club may grant membership to whomever they choose, and they should have the right to do so.  In this situation, however, two opposing traditions are in direct conflict with one another, and there is really no compromise.  It’s not like they can offer her a spot on the “Ladies Auxiliary”.  They either have to offer her membership, or go out of their way NOT to allow her to join their club.

Whatever the decision turns out to be, it could very well be a turning point for Augusta and its chairman Billy Payne.  The club has made small, but noticeable strides to portray themselves as slightly less elitist since he has taken over the reins.  I’m by no means saying that they are going to turn into Bushwood Country Club a la Al Czervik, but allowing a women entrance into this isolated club would be a major step.  If they do decide to offer membership to Ginni Rometty, however, they should do it quietly and out of the limelight.  Heck, there’s a chance she might not even want to join.

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